Jewish Thought

Obedience for the Torah

04.02.19

Question

Looking at the basis for our covenant with G-d, I noticed G-d said to Avraham (Bereshit 17:1): “Walk before Me”, which is sometimes understood to mean: “Serve Me”. And also (Bereshit 17:9): “You shall keep My covenant”. Afterwards G-d Himself says regards this in Bereshit 26:5 that Avraham obeyed the Voice of the Almighty and indeed kept it. I noticed some similarities looking at the story of Mount Sinai. First G-d says (Shemot 19:5): “If you will obey My voice” and “keep My covenant”. The people response was: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient (i.e. we will obey and keep).” Secondly I noticed G-d saying (Bereshit 17:7): “I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to thy G-d and to thy seed after thee.” While in Shemot 6:7 G-d promises that He will take them as His own people and that He will be their G-d. Many more similarities can be found. These covenants seems to be based on two principals. From G-ds side He makes certain promises, from the human side commitment and obedience is being asked. It all starts with acknowledging G-d, and accepting Him as G-d, but once we do this, it seems one needs to show obedience (we make ourselves avadim, to be His servants, and He promises to be our G-d). With obedience to seem to be such a big part of our covenant/relationship with G-d, why isn’t it the first commandment given (after getting to know G-d) at mount Sinai? Isn’t serving/obedience to G-d the biggest Mitzvah of them all? One that covers all other commandmens, one that enconpasses the entire range of what’s being asked of us? P.s. I’ve found a comment stating all mitzvot are contained in the mitzvah of emunah, i.e. “Anochi HaShem Elohecha” (Maharsha Middos 23b). So while I also think emunah (acknowledging and accepting G-d) is the main principle, it is shown by yiras, ahavah etc. but these and all what we do, our role in the covenantal relionship, is based on our given proclamation na’aseh v’nishma “we will obey and act”, i.e. servitude and obedience.

Answer

To the Questioner, 

As you rightfully quote, the introduction to receiving the Torah includes a request for obedience (Shemot 19:5). This was the general background principle for accepting the entire Torah. 

The ten commandments susequently given at Mount Sinai were the actual commandments to be obedient about. It does not require another specific commandment among the commandments to command obedience. 

With blessings, 
Rav Nachum

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