Parshat Eikev - 5760
Does HaShem, Your G-d, Ask of You? (Devarim 10:12)
There seems to be a rather odd question that Moshe asks the Jewish People in this Parshah, "And now, Israel, what does HaShem ask of You? Is it not only to fear HaShem, your G-d, to follow in all His Ways, and to love Him; and to serve HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul?" Only that.
discusses the difficulty in Masechet
Berachot (33b), where we find Rabbi Chanina asking, "Is fear of HaShem
then a minor matter?" And
answers, "Yes; as far as Moshe was concerned, fear of HaShem was a
minor matter." But this
answer really only begs the question, "Was Moshe a poor educator?
Did he not realize, even in his great humility, that he was asking
the People of Israel to emulate him, in a way that they were not prepared to
and not capable of doing?"
Maimonides, seems to add to the difficulty by writing in "Hilchot
Teshuvah," "Laws of Repentance (5:2)," "Do not seriously
consider this thought promulgated
by foolish idol worshippers and ignorant people of the Jewish faith,
that the Holy One Blessed Be He decrees concerning a person from the
time of his birth to be
righteous or wicked. That is
not the case; rather, any person can be as righteous as
Moshe our Teacher or as wicked as Yeravam, or wise or foolish or
merciful or cruel or stingy or generous, and likewise all the other
was arguably the greatest human being who ever lived! HaShem chose him to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and
to perform, with Aharon,
all the associated miracles. He was with HaShem for forty days and forty nights on top of
Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah. He
is called the Master of the Prophets. And
HaShem says about him, "
In all of my Palace, he alone is trustworthy
How then can
the RAMBAM make the statement that any person can be as righteous as Moshe!?
I think we
can use an idea of the "Torah Temimah" to suggest an answer to
these difficulties. If we look
back at the Gemara in Berachot, we notice that the Gemara seems only to be
bothered by HaShem's requirement, as stated by Moshe, for the Jewish People
to have "fear of HaShem." What
about the other requirements mentioned in the verse cited, "to follow
in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve Him with all one's heart and with
all one's soul?" Why are
these ignored by the Gemara?
answers the Torah Temimah, it is because the root of one's relationship to
HaShem is exclusively "fear of HaShem."
If one can achieve this, everything else will follow, with "seyata
di'shemaya," the aid of HaShem. And
with regard to this basic requirement of "Yirat HaShem,"
"fear of HaShem," if not with regard to all the other measures of
spiritual achievement, by which Moshe towered over all human beings before
and after him, all men, including Moshe, are created equal!
It is the fundamental "bechirah chofshit," "free
choice," made by a human being, to follow HaShem or not to follow Him.
And this is
what the RAMBAM means as well, that "Yirat HaShem," Fear of HaShem
is the litmus test; it is what discriminates between a human being who is
basically "righteous," and one who is basically
Decline of the Generations
related question, in that it seems to deal with the comparison of Jews of
different generations, in spiritual terms, is sparked by the following
somewhat enigmatic Gemara (Masechet Shabbat (112b)):
Zeira said in the name of Rava bar Zimuna, 'If we can think of the earlier
ones as Children of Angels, then we can think of ourselves as
children of human beings;
however, if we consider the earlier ones to be children of human beings,
then we must consider ourselves as donkeys! And not even like the donkeys of
Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa or Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair (who shared to some
extent their masters' religious sensitivities), but rather like ordinary
Gemara would seem to be in line with the general concept that there has been
a decline in the spiritual levels of the generations, "Nitkatnu HaDorot,"
"The Generations have declined."
however, to be in marked contrast to what we see in terms of the level of
secular knowledge in the world, which has always seemed to follow an
upward curve, and especially in our time, the level of knowledge is
exponentially, in all fields. This
is most obviously true in the various fields of science: in Physics and
Astronomy and Chemistry and Biology, in
Medicine where previously unimagined ethical questions have arisen,
and Communications, where the
world has shrunk to the extent that instantaneous
communication from point to point is possible almost no matter where
the points are.
spiritual knowledge lagged behind?
Let's look a
little more closely at the advances in the secular disciplines.
It seems that many if not most of them have been caused or aided in
some way by the discovery of devices that enabled human beings to see
"very large but distant" entities and to see "very
small" entities. There are
"giant stars," thousands of times brighter than our sun, that
could never previously have been seen before the invention of the telescope.
Similarly, there are unimaginably small organisms that have powerful
effects on human life, millions in a drop of water, that could not be seen
without a microscope. Thus, advances in science have been fueled by the increased
ability to see "invisible" but present and important phenomena.
Moshe, in his farewell address to the Jewish people, of his and of all
times, warned "Be especially careful concerning your souls, because you
saw absolutely no image on the day that HaShem spoke to you from the
fire!" (Devarim 4:15)
though the G-d of Judaism is invisible, there were times that there were
visible manifestations of the Invisible G-d.
There was the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds, the Revelation of HaShem
in thunder and lightning and the Sound of a Shofar
at Mt. Sinai when the Jewish People received the Torah. There
was the Tabernacle, and later the Holy Temples, wherein miracles were seen
daily. And other miracles too
numerous to mention. There was
Prophecy, whereby Infinite G-d had communication with finite human beings.
All these have now, because of our sins, been withdrawn from us.
What is the
difference between a human being and a donkey?
It is mainly that they operate with different processors.
It's not the donkey's fault that G-d didn't provide him with a more
sophisticated brain. Thank G-d,
human beings are blessed with sophisticated minds and sensitive souls, that
allow them to compensate with prayer for the lost Temple, and to build
altars in our hearts. But, like
the donkey, we cannot now experience the spiritual reality that was ours
when we had the Temple. And our
sins were, and are, our fault.
time of Malachi, the last of the Prophets, humanity has had to operate
without any kind of direct communication from G-d.
No device can possibly help. It
is this deficit, this limitation that Rabbi Zeira may have been referring
But there is
one thing that the Jewish People can do.
That is to return to G-d, so that
He will return to us. And even
though He is present at all times, "
He is standing behind our walls, observing and influencing through
the windows, peering through the shutters," ("Shir HaShirim,"
"Song of Songs" (2:9)) we wish that He would make Himself manifest
again in the world, by sending the "Mashiach,"
and assisting us in building the "Beit HaMikdash," the Holy
Temple, in the Holy City, Yerushalayim.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel