Judaism: Eikev: What Does God Want From Me?
Have you ever asked yourself, “What does God want from me? Why did He create me?”
In Deuteronomy, in this week's Torah reading, Parshat Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) answers this very question and outlines our Creator’s five requests (10:12-13).
“And now, Israel, What does Hashem, your God, request of you? Only to fear Hashem, your God, to follow all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul; to observe Hashem’s commandments and statues, which I command you today, for your benefit.”
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his classic, The Path of the Just, distills from these verses the five essential components of Judaism:
To fear God.
To walk in His ways.
To love Him.
To serve Him wholeheartedly.
To observe His commandments.
God makes these requests not for His benefit, rather, as Moshe Rabbeinu points out, “…for your benefit (ibid).” By fulfilling these requests, we develop a relationship with our Creator and infuse our lives with meaning and fulfillment.
Even fulfilling partially just one of these requests, is a solid foundation upon which to build your relationship with God.
To fear God. This means to be in awe of His exaltedness and aware of His constant presence. The first step in developing a relationship with God is to remind yourself that He exists and that He is with you at all times.
Rabbi Luzzatto outlines three steps to do this: (1) Throughout the day, bring to mind how God’s glory fills the world – His presence is in every cell and atom. Realize you are standing before God at all times. (2) Think about God’s awesomeness. He is the Creator and sustainer of the entire universe, as well as countless spiritual worlds. (3) Contemplate how lowly you are compared to God; you are completely dependent on Him and cannot do anything without His help.
Shift your awareness, from inward – centered on your thoughts – to outward, tuning in to God’s presence which surrounds you always. You will then be able to feel deep awe and reverence before Him.
To walk in God’s ways. After contemplating His greatness, we will be motivated to emulate Him, as best we can. God is completely good. His every act is a manifestation of His goodness, (although we do not understand how). We walk in our Father in Heaven’s footsteps by being a source of goodness to others. When we help others, our Father is channeling His light of goodness through us. When we harm others, we sever that special connection to Him and spread darkness.
Every interaction you have with another person gives you an opportunity to be a force of goodness. When you are friendly, considerate, helpful and show an interest in others, you transform a mundane interaction into a sacred experience.
To love God. Awed by His grandeur and inspired by His goodness, you will come to love Him. An aspect of loving God is being grateful for the blessings He has given you. In addition, think about who God is to you: He is your Creator, who brought you into existence to benefit you. He is your Father, who loves you unconditionally. He is your protector, who ensures you only experience what is for your eternal good. He is your provider, who gives you exactly what you need for each moment. He never stops thinking of you, caring for you, loving you. Now ask, “Do I love God?” Speak to Him and express to Him your love.
To serve God wholeheartedly. This means serving Him with pure intent. Fueled by your reverence and love for God, you will want to serve Him solely to fulfill His will, without ulterior motives. As King David says in Psalms (40:9), “To do Your will, my God, is my desire...” When mitzvot are done for this reason, they serve as a bridge, uniting you with God.
Rabbi Luzzatto mentions another aspect of purity of intent: Serving God mindfully. Before doing a commandment, ask, “What am I about to do and why? Before whom am I going to do it?” You perform the commandments before God to fulfill His will and through them you draw closer to Him.
To observe God’s commandments. In addition to serving God wholeheartedly, in your awe and love for Him, you will also want to fulfill His every request.
In order to observe the commandments we need to learn the laws. Find a class or book geared toward your level of observance. If you learn a law that seems too difficult for you, and you feel frustrated and overwhelmed, remember that God only asks you to do the best you can. Tell yourself, “Right now I’m not sure if I can do this, but it’s important to know that this is the goal to work towards. All God asks is that I do what I can, and I will.”
If possible, speak to your rabbi about how to fulfill the law in your situation. You will likely discover that either the law is more manageable than you initially thought, or that in your case, there are leniencies upon which you can rely. After all, the Torah, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness…(Proverbs 3:17)”
The greatest achievement possible in life is forging a connection with the Ultimate good – our Creator. When we fulfill the five requests every day, we live our lives with our Creator as our constant companion and guide. God did not create us to live just any life: He wants us to live the best life possible and discover the Ultimate good. How about you, what kind of life do you want to live?
This article has been abridged. For the full version, which includes benchmarks for how you are doing in fulfilling each one of these requests, please click here.