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Ibn Ezra: The Purpose of the Commandments Print E-mail
Written by Machberes Avodas Hashem   

Beit MidrashI found one verse that embodies all the commandments. The verse is, “You shall fear God your Lord; and He shall you serve (Deuteronomy 6:13).” Now, “You shall fear,” encapsulates all negative commandments pertaining to the heart, lips, and  deeds. It is the first step that one takes in one's ascent in the service of the Glorious God.


The service of God takes in all positive commandments. These precepts train the heart and lead a person to cleave to God's glorious Name. This is what man was created for. Human beings were not created to acquire wealth to bequeath to others or to a erect buildings for others to inhabit while they dwell below the earth. Neither was a person brought into being for the purpose of enjoying a variety of dishes, for the pleasure of eating lasts but for a few moments, whereas much effort is expended in attaining the delicacies most of which are unhealthful. The same is the case with jest and drunkenness, folly, and madness.

The intelligent person will understand that life is short, that the soul is in the hand of its Creator, and that one does not know when God will reclaim it. He will therefore seek after all things that lead a person to the love of God.

The wise person will study the sciences. He will investigate belief so that he recognizes and understands the work of God. The intelligent man will not occupy himself with the vanities of the world. On the contrary, he will isolate himself for the purpose of studying and meditating upon God's law and observing the Lord's precepts.

God will then open the eyes of his heart that will create a new and different spirit in him. He will be beloved of his Creator while he is yet alive. His soul will cleave to God and enjoy the fullness of the joy of God's presence.

Furthermore, God's right hand of bliss will be eternally upon his soul when it separates from the body. This is what the poet Asaph spoke of when he said, “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever (Psalms 73:26).”

The intelligent person will act as did our father Jacob when he vowed, “then shall God be my Lord (Genesis 28:21),” for when Jacob came to Beth El, he said, “Put away the strange gods that are among you (Genesis 35:2).” He left the sheep and separated himself to serve God.

One who reaches the level where he is always conscious of God and His deeds and wonders, and informs people of God's glory by not saying anything, without mentioning God's name, is one of those who, “Turned the many to righteousness (Daniel 12:3).” This is the reason that the prophets swore by God's name in most of their utterances.

Note that the Torah was given only to the intelligent. We are therefore to explain rationally what is written in Scripture.

Yesod Mora Ve-Sod Ha-Torah; The Secret of the Torah, translated by H. Norman Strickman

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