In Chapter 12, verse 28, the Torah states “Keep and hearken to all these words that I command you, that it may benefit you and your children after you, foreverKeep and listen to all these words that I command you, that it may benefit you and your children after you, forever…” It is quite interesting that the Torah first states, to “keep” (“shemor”), and then to listen “(“v’shamata”) to the mitzvos that Hashem has commanded us. One would initially think that the order should be reversed. An individual needs to first listen to what the mitzvos are in order for him/her to keep them. How can a person keep mitzvos if he hasn’t even heard them??
I would like to share with you a beautiful idea from the Koznitcher Maggid, Rav Yisroel Hopstien, a great Chasidic leader from the late 17th century. The Koznitcher Maggid explains that usually we translate “shemor,”as to keep or to safeguard. In fact, shemor, has a 2nd meaning. Shemor could mean to long for something, to look forward to something. In Sefer Bereishis, after Yosef comes to tell his brothers and his father about his dreams, the Torah says “v’aviv shamar et hadavar.”Shamar in that context means to long for. Yakov longed (shamar) for the day in which Yosef’s dreams would come true. So the idea of shemor v’shamata is not that you should guard and you shall listen to the mitzvos; rather it’s you should long to listen to Hashem’s commandments. When we serve Hashem out of fear, we act like a servant, who only responds to his master’s commandments. A servant serves his master by fulfilling the wishes and the needs of the master. The servant’s desire is that the master will not need anything. He has no interest in going beyond anything other than what the master asks of him. A person who serves Hashem like a servant to a master, fulfills Hashem’s commandments. However, he doesn’t long for more mitzvos or more responsibilities. He is content with just fulfilling the mitzvos. However, a person who serves Hashem out of love, like a son to a king, he yearns to do more. He seeks more opportunities to serve the master.The Torah is teaching us that the ultimate goal is not just to keep the mitzvos, but to long to keep the mitzvos, to seek out additional ways in which we can serve Hashem, and not just “respond to his commandments.”
As we approach the month of Elul, we should all merit to seek out different opportunities whereby we can serve Hashem, and in that way, demonstrate to Hashem our ultimately desire to serve him out of love.
Good Shabbos and Chodesh tov.