And now, Israel, what does Hashem your God ask of you? Only to fear Hashem your God, to go in His ways, and to love Him, and to serve your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Devarim 10:12)
How many times have we been in the airport, feeling pressure to get to the gate on time, and being confronted with a moving walkway or long escalator, which was designed to get us to the gate just a little bit faster. People have different reactions to this. Some jump on without missing a beat. Others pause for a moment, and when they see traffic congestion ahead, they veer to the steps or aisle and walk using their own steam, under the assumption that they’ll get there faster. Others will stand at the entrance and study it before taking the step on board. Finally, there are others who hesitatingly proceed, but either need someone to hold their hand, or perhaps grab onto the moving handrail for dear life.
In this week’s parsha (10:12), Hashem seems to only ask that we “fear Him”. Yet later on, in verse 20, He adds that we should also serve Him, cleave to Him, and swear in His name. It seems that Hashem wants more than just “fear” – if so, why does He seem to ask in verse 12 as if “fear” is the one and only thing that He wants?
Moishe wants to learn how to dance, so he watches instructional videos that explain how to dance. He watches the moves on the screen, and then repeats them himself in his home. He does this again and again until he has reached a level where he feels he is now dancing properly. Yet what if Moishe didn’t have the opportunity to practice, and instead was pushed onto the dance floor with a group of other men at some party. He would probably find that after getting into the rhythm of the dance, he would eventually come to “get the hang of it” and the subsequent dance steps would come almost naturally.
This idea is true also in the sphere of Torah observance. A person who is living in an environment that is “upwardly mobile” in the service of Hashem finds it easier to grow, in comparison to a person who is living in an environment void of any spiritual recognition. This is why Chazal tell us a person should live in a place of Torah.
We have all seen this idea in our own lives.
However, another level of this is in our personal mindset. Once a person decides that he wants to grow and is looking to perform mitzvos, they seem to “pop up” everywhere and give him great satisfaction. Just as when someone steps onto the escalator or the people mover, they move forward without almost no effort, so too in the world of Torah, once you are on the track, there is a natural advancement which is almost effortless.
There are also people who do not get on the “Torah Track”, but because these people are so highly motivated, they can be successful wherever they are.
There are others who find the decision to be loyal (ne’eman) a daunting one, and therefore they stop and calculate before entering that Torah track.
There are still others who need the support of a second party to take them by the hand in order to make the move.
Unfortunately, there are those who are afraid and won’t even enter at all, and because of who they are, they find themselves left behind.
This week, the Torah tells us that “fear of Hashem” is similar to the moving walkway: Once you enter the realm of fear of Hashem, then “cleaving” to Hashem will come almost automatically. However, if you add your own strength to it, you will be able to advance at an even faster rate.
As we get ready for Elul and want to find ourselves in the proper frame of mind, the most ‘profitable’ thing to do is to get on the track of “fear of Hashem” and with Hashem’s help, our efforts will generate far greater results than our personal abilities would have produced.