What does Hashem ask of you?
ואמר רבי חנינא: הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. שנאמר (דברים י:יב) “עַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה…?”
Rabbi Chanina said: Everything is in the hands of [the One in] heaven except for yir’as Shamayim, as it says: “And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d demand of you but to feel yir’ah?” (Devarim 10:12).
Rabbi Chanina understands Moshe Rabbeinu as saying Hashem wants yir’as Shamayim alone, that everything else stems from yir’as Shamayim because yir’ah is the fulcrum about which free will revolves.
But it’s not clear that this is what Moshe Rabbeinu really says. Here is a more complete quote of the chumash (v. 12-13):
וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה אֶת־ה אֱ-לֹהֶ֜יךָ לָלֶ֤כֶת בְּכָל־דְּרָכָיו֙ וּלְאַֽהֲבָ֣ה אֹת֔וֹ וְלַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־ה אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָֽבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ לִשְׁמֹ֞ר אֶת־מִצְו֤͏ֹת ה֙ וְאֶת־חֻקֹּתָ֔יו…
And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you, but that you fear / be in awe of Hashem your G-d to walk in all His ways, and to love Him and serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. To observe the mitzvoth of God and His statutes…
And the Ramchal uses this entire list to explain man’s job in this world in his introduction to Mesilas Yesharim:
This is what Moses our Teacher, may Peace be upon him, teaches us …
Herein have been included all of the features of perfection of Divine service that are appropriate in relation to the Holy One blessed be He. They are:
- היראה – fear/awe of G-d,
- ההליכה בדרכיו – walking in His ways,
- האהבה – love,
- שלמות הלב – wholeheartedness, and
- שמירת כל המצוות – observance of all of the mitzvoth.
“היראה – Yir’ah of G-d” denotes yir’ah of the Majesty of the Blessed One, yir’ah of Him as one would a great and mighty king, and being ashamed at one’s every movement in consequence of His greatness, especially when speaking before Him in prayer or engaging in the study of His Torah.
“ההליכה בדרכיו – Walking in His ways” embodies the whole area of cultivation and correction of character traits. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained, “אבא שאול אומר: ‘ואנוהו’ הוי דומה לו] מה הוא [חנון ו]רחום אף אתה היה [חנון ו]רחום – [Abba Shaul says: ‘And I shall glorify Him – ואנוהו – be similar to Him.] Just as He is [giving and] merciful, be also [giving and] merciful…” (Shabbos 133b) The essence of all this is that a person conform all of his traits and all the varieties of his actions to what is just and ethical. Chazal have thus summarized the idea:
[רבי אומר: איזו היא דרך ישרה שיבור לו האדם?] כל שהיא תפארת לעושיה, ותפארת לו מן האדם…
[Rebbe says: What is the “straight path” that a person should traverse?] All that is praiseworthy in its doer and brings praise to him from others…
– Avos 1:2
that is, all that leads to the end of true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and furthering of brotherliness.
“האהבה – Love” – that there be implanted in a person’s heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother. He will be grieved if he or others are lacking in this; he will be jealous for it and he will rejoice greatly in fulfilling aught of it.
“שלמות הלב – Whole-heartedness” – that service before the Blessed One be characterized by purity of motive, that its end be His service alone and nothing else. Included in this is that one’s heart be complete in Divine service, that his interests not be divided or his observance mechanical, but that his whole heart be devoted to it.
“שמירת כל המצוות – Observance of all the mitzvos,” as the words imply, is observance of the whole body of mitzvos with all of their fine points and conditions.
Implicit then in Rabbi Chanina’s position is that Moshe rabbeinu is not listing five elements but giving us a progression. It all starts with the decision for yir’ah, as it’s the only thing in our control. Yir’ah them express themselves in terms of emulating Hashem, loving Him, serving him wholeheartedly and mitzvah observance.
The second step is “walking in his ways”. To know that He is Great would naturally generate a desire to follow His example and thereby also reach for greatness.
From yir’ah and emulating Hashem, we come to loving Him — one middah and its physical expression leading to the next middah. As we saw, ahavah isn’t really “another side” to our relationship with the Creator, aside from yir’ah. As I quoted from Rav Yitzchak Hutner at the close of post I titled “Yir’ah and its Middos“:
Yir’ah without love – surely there is here a deficiency of yir’ah;
love without yir’ah – there is nothing here at all.
Ahavas Hashem must be founded on yir’as Shamayim, just as love is always only of something valued. Without an awareness of Hashem’s importance, and His significance to me to me personally, I cannot relate to Him as Beloved.
And like yir’ah, this ahavah must also be physically expressed. Yir’ah motivates walking in the ways Hashem does, emulating His Greatness, taking care to make sure His Will is manifest. Ahavah motivates walking Hashem’s path in a different sense — the path to Him. To wholeheartedly seek to live in His service and to cleave to the Creator.
From there we get to halakhah and mitzvos. The Ramchal clearly denies the idea that observing halakhah is the entirety of following the Torah. Halakhah is the synthesis of these goals or a means to navigate their conflict. It is the means to know when to operate on the plane of yir’ah-emulation or on the plane of love-cleaving, and thus have something greater than either.