When we think about the different mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah, they can often seem random and disjointed. What does kashrut have to do with giving charity, and how do those things relate to whether or not I pray? The questions about the relevance and importance of the different laws in a Torah-oriented life boil down to one main question: What’s the point? In Parshat Eikev, Moshe suggests a rather interesting answer.
Speaking to Bnei Yisrael as they prepare to enter Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), Moshe tells them, “And now, O Israel, what does Hashem your God ask of you? Only this: to revere Hashem your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve Hashem your God with all your heart and soul, keeping Hashem’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good” (Devarim 10:12-13).
Reverence, reflection, love, and service. These are the primary elements that Moshe lays out for the people as to what Hashem “asks” of them. Simply put, Hashem tasks us to live a life of God-consciousness. The Or HaChaim breaks this down for us quite nicely.
Commenting on these pesukim, he explains that, basically, Moshe is telling Bnei Yisrael that Hashem wants them to unify Him with His name. This language strikes a similar chord to the end of Jewish prayer, in which we say, “And Hashem will be King over all the earth on that day, Hashem will be one and His name will be one” (Zechariah 14:9). The natural question is: What does it mean to align Hashem and His name, and why is that important?
Names are like titles, and they signal our relationship with others. For instance, the title used for one person can vary based on their relationships to that individual: Mom, Ms. Smith, sister, wife etc. Hashem’s name, as the Or HaChaim refers, is our perception of and relationship to Hashem, the way we view and experience Him in our life; Hashem Himself is the ultimate, objective truth of existence. Unifying Hashem’s name with Him is, in other words, trying to bring the world’s awareness and consciousness of Hashem into a richer, more meaningful, and wholly true fashion.
In reality, Hashem is ever-present in our lives, showering us with love and support. He is constantly guiding us to live our best lives and maximize our full potential. We, however, do not always, if ever, experience life in that way. The bad things sometimes seem good while the good things sometimes seem bad, and our whole perception is imbalanced. The quest for God-consciousness, as Moshe describes to Bnei Yisrael, is trying to bring our experience of reality into greater and greater alignment with the truth, love, and goodness of Hashem. A life of God-consciousness is, as Rabbi David Aaron says, like a radio tuning in to the most beautiful station with no static: All that radio will hear is the sweetest symphony with no interfering static.
This is why Rebbe Nachman says that the aspect of oneness — the unity between Hashem and His name in the world — is the ultimate goal of creation (Likutei Moharan 65:3). The Torah and its mitzvot are giving us the fundamental roadmap of a God-conscious life, one imbued with infinite meaning, love, and passion. To return to what Moshe said, all Hashem asks of us is to strive for a life that is tuned into the truth, a life of which we see, feel, and experience Hashem every day. This will bring us the ultimate happiness and wholeness, and, as Moshe says, it will be “for your good.”