Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. — Deuteronomy 6:5
The Torah portion for this week is Va’etchanan, which means, “I pleaded,” from Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:1–26.
Imagine that someone made you the following proposition: $10 million are contained within a suitcase atop a tall skyscraper. The suitcase could be yours if you do just one thing: walk a tightrope between one skyscraper to the other with the money. If you make it across, the money is yours. In fact, even if you fall, the money is still yours.
Would you do it?
Unless you’ve been trained as a tightrope walker for the circus, I’m pretty sure you would pass on such an opportunity. Chances are you wouldn’t make it across the rope alive. What good would all that money be if you weren’t alive to enjoy it?
In this week’s Torah reading, we encounter one of the most important prayers in Judaism, the Shema, which means, “listen.” It is recited every morning and every evening by Jews worldwide. It is the mantra and mission statement of the Jewish people and it begins like this: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The next verse implores us to love God deeply, “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The Jewish sages explain that “with all your soul” means that we have to be willing to give up our life for the sake of God and “with all your strength” means that we have to be ready to part with all our money for God’s purposes. The sages ask why is it necessary to add that a person must be willing to part with his money for God. Surely if a person is willing to give up his very life for God, he wouldn’t flinch at giving away his money because life is so much more valuable than money! Isn’t it obvious?
While we might think that everyone values life over money, the reality is not so. If you think about it, plenty of people are willing to give up their lives for money. How many people do you know who are spending so much time making money that they have no time to actually “live”? How many people get to the end of their lives and realize that they never truly lived even one day?
When you love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, then every single day is truly lived and lived well. You wouldn’t risk your life to cross that tightrope for all of the money in the world, so don’t risk sacrificing your life for anything other than God. Our lives are an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – so let’s live well — with all our heart, soul and strength!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President