WHAT DO THEY WANT FROM ME?
Rabbi David Walk
Have you ever found yourself muttering: What do they want from me? Really, you haven't? I've spent most of my life mumbling that phrase. When I was a kid and my parents asked me to take out the garbage, I'd think. 'What do they want from me, isn't it enough to be cute and cuddly?' When my coach would yell to give him more, I'd think to myself, 'What do they want from me, how does he know I've got anything left in the tank?' When my teachers would tell me that my work wasn't good enough, I'd think to myself, "What do they want from me, I bet he/she couldn't do any better.' I could go on like this for a while, maybe filling both pages, but I assume you've got the idea. Well, this week, God turns to the Jewish people and tells them exactly what is being asked of them, and I'd like to share some ideas with you on that exchange.
Here is the quote: And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you? Only to revere the Lord, your God (Deuteronomy 10:12). This immediately brings many commentaries to ask why reverence (or awe, or fear) is considered so little that the verse says 'only'. So, some respond that this quote really comes to us through Moshe, and for him, who spoke to God face to face, reverence wasn't such a big deal. However, for the rest of us, it's not so easy. Rashi quotes the Talmud and tells us that it might be a lot, but 'Our Rabbis derived from this verse that everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven (Berachot 33b).' In other words it's not talking about degree of difficulty, the verse is informing us that reverence is our only responsibility. God carries the rest of the load. Still other suggest that the key is in the introduction, when it says 'and now.' They explain that after everything that has happened in Egypt and the desert (and, indeed, in all of Jewish history), any clear eyed observer must conclude that being in awe of God should be easy.
There is another, popular approach which would demand that we not stop the quote where we did (I did stop in the middle of a verse), but continue for the next verse and a half. This gives us the following citation: Only to revere the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command you this day, for your good (12-13). Holy mackerel, that only makes things worse, because we not only have to revere God, but also we must follow all the Torah's instructions, plus love God and worship, too. That last one, which includes praying might be