“See I have placed before you today blessing and curses. The blessing is when you listen to the commandments of the Almighty which I have commanded you today.”
Deuteronomy Chapter 11, Verse 26 & 27
The book of Devarim, Moses’ valedictory speech to the Jewish people is known as Mishna Torah – a repeat. Moses is about to leave this world and he delivers his parting words of wisdom.
REPEATING and summarising the entire Torah. What is interesting – he waits three portions DEVARIM – VAESCHANAN – EIKEV – before getting in to the finer details of the commandments! Why does he wait so long?!
The Chizkuni (Hezekiah ben Manoah or Hezekiah bar Manoah, a French rabbi and student. 1250 - 1310) explains the answer. Until now, the almighty was teaching the children of Israel about the fear of Heaven, from now onwards he starts to go through all the other commandments. In other words, until now, he has been making his parting speech. Only teaching them about FEAR OF HEAVEN… how to live as a G-d fearing moral human being – only once this is firmly established as the foundation for life, are we ready to go through the mitzvot – the details of the commandments.
Why is this so important? To begin with Fear of heaven?
The answer is simple – in order to truly be an outstanding Jew – one needs to learn how to relate to G-d and other people, and only then is one ready to keep commandments. Both, are of course crucial, but without Middot Tovot – good character traits – we are not able to actualise the purpose of the mitzvot.
This week, we begin the Jewish month of Elul. This means the High Holy Days are only four weeks away. It is at this time, we recalibrate, we reflect on the type of lives we are living, how G-d fearing are we? How do we conduct ourselves both in public and in private?
From this Monday, we will begin blowing the shofar each and every morning at the end of the daily service, and this Shofar blast is a wake up call – to remind us to aim to live up to our potential.
We will also begin reciting Psalm 27, LeDavid Hashem Ori, in which King David prays to G-d to be sheltered in His presence all the days of his life – may we too merit to see the redemption speedily in our days, which will come sooner if we conduct ourselves in the best possible fashion.