Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Torah Attitude: Parashas Eikev: Serving G'd with love and fear

Summary

The fourth and fifth constant commandments are to love G'd and to fear G'd. It is better to serve G'd out of love than out of fear. However, only through the combination of both love and fear we will be able to constantly stay on track and fulfill the commandments in every situation. We refer to G'd as our loving Father and our strict King. Both when G'd deals with us as HASHEM and shows us His kindness, and when He treats us as Elokeinu (our Elokim) with strictness and judgment, ultimately HASHEM is One. We do not necessarily see and understand the need for "G'd's surgery".

Fourth and fifth constant commandment

Last week we discussed the first three constant commandments that define our belief in G'd. This week we will continue with the fourth and fifth ones. They are to love and fear G'd, and thus describe how we serve Him. The Rambam (Book of Commandments positive commandments #3 and #4) teaches that the Torah obligates us to love G'd in the second verse of Shema, as it says: "You shall love HASHEM your G'd." The obligation to fear G'd is mentioned in the Torah, says the Rambam, in a few verses after the first portion of Shema. There it says (Devarim 6:13): "You shall fear HASHEM your G'd." However, just prior to the first portion of Shema it says (ibid 1-2): "And this is the commandment ... that HASHEM your G'd commanded you so that you shall fear G'd."

Better love than fear

On the words "and you shall love HASHEM your G'd" Rashi quotes from the Sifri and says: "You shall fulfill G'd's words out of love, for one who does something out of love cannot be compared to someone who acts out of fear." Rashi concludes that if one works for his master out of fear and the master overburdens him, he will eventually escape and leave him. An obvious question arises from this Sifri. Why does the Sifri mention serving G'd out of fear as this verse seems only to deal with serving G'd out of love? The answer may be found in the first word of this verse which starts with "And you shall love." Our sages teach that when a verse starts with "And" it connects to the previous verse or portion. As we mentioned above, just a few verses before Shema it says that we shall observe the commandments in fear of G'd. The Sifri addresses what the word "and" is connecting to, and explains that the Torah here teaches that it is not sufficient to serve G'd out of fear. In fact, it is better to serve G'd out of love than out of fear.

Love and fear

However, if that is the case why do we not concentrate to serve G'd only out of love? The Jerusalem Talmud (Sotah 5:5) addresses this question and says: "Do out of love and do out of fear. For if you start to hate fulfilling the commandments, you will remember that you are really doing this out of love, and love and hatred do not go hand in hand." In other words, a person may at some point go through a difficult time and may be overwhelmed by all the rules and regulations of the Torah, and feel like quitting. At that point, this person will remind himself that he is not keeping the commandments because he has to. Rather, he is doing it because he wants to express his love for G'd, Who constantly watches over him, and provides him with all his needs. If one really loves someone, nothing is too difficult or burdensome. Even a pauper or a sick person, if he focuses, will find plenty of reasons to thank G'd and appreciate His many blessings.

Stay on track

The Jerusalem Talmud continues: "And if you start to become disrespectful, you will remember that someone who fulfills the commandments out of fear will never be disrespectful." Only through the combination of both love and fear we will be able to constantly stay on track and fulfill the commandments in every situation. This is why we ask G'd for His assistance to both love and fear Him in our daily prayers (see second blessing before Shema, and "Uva le'tzion" before Aleinu in the morning).For even after we serve G'd out of love, we still need to fear Him, as the Talmud explains.

Loving Father and strict King

These two tools in our service of G'd correspond to the two ways of conduct that G'd uses to run the world, kindness and judgment. We refer to G'd as our loving Father who constantly bestows us with His kindness. At the same time, we acknowledge that He is our strict King. As such, He disciplines us to ensure that we only do what is right. This is for our benefit and for the good of the entire world. G'd's different names also correspond to these two ways of conduct. "HASHEM" describes G'd's conduct of kindness, whereas "Elokim" refers to His conduct of judgment.

HASHEM is One

We now understand why we need both love and fear to serve G'd. But if that is the case, why are these two verses not immediately after each other? Rabbi Meir Leibush Malbim addresses this question and explains that the Torah specifically put the verse of Shema in between the instruction of serving G'd with both love and fear. For in this verse, the Torah teaches us that both when G'd deals with us as HASHEM and shows us His kindness, and when He treats us as Elokeinu (our Elokim) with strictness and judgment, ultimately HASHEM is One, and even the strict conduct emanates from G'd's love towards us. When G'd chastises us, it is comparable to a loving father who disciplines his child, because he loves him and knows that this is what he needs to succeed in life.

"G'd's surgery"

Sometimes we suffer a monetary loss or have medical problems. As long as they are not self-inflicted, due to mismanagement or negligence, we must accept them as an act of G'd. However, only after we understand the "oneness" of G'd, as expressed in the first verse of Shema, we are able to continue to love G'd despite our suffering. This is similar, says the Malbim, to a patient who appreciates a surgeon who saves his life by cutting away infected tissue or amputating a limb. We do not necessarily see and understand the need for "G'd's surgery". We must therefore develop our understanding and belief in G'd's goodness and constant lovingkindness. For only then we can overcome our tests and continue to serve G'd out of both love and fear.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


Shema Yisrael Torah Network
info@shemayisrael.co.il
http://www.shemayisrael.co.il
Jerusalem, Israel
732-370-3344