“Now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 10:12).
What does the verse imply? That what God requires of us matters.
Many people are impatient with such statements. “It’s what I want for my own life that is important,” they tell us: “Don’t talk to me about God!” This discussion is predictable. “What I want for myself is money, status, happiness, love” – fill in the rest of the sentence yourself.
They are all worthwhile goals, but where they become a problem is when they lead to a problem. “I have money,” you might hear, “but I am still not a happy person”.
I remember a conversation with a congregant in London after Yom Kippur one year. I had spoken on Kol Nidre in support of a charity appeal. There were people who had nothing, I said, and it was our duty to support them.
All fine and good, but then came the phone call after the fast. Would I come and see Mr …? I duly complied. Where did he live? In a luxury flat surrounded by art and beauty.
“I heard your sermon,” he told me, “but you got it all wrong. You overdid it about people who have nothing. How about support for people who have everything?” He had obviously worked hard and accumulated assets that others only dream of, but it didn’t stop him being deprived – deprived of friendship and a sense of worthwhileness.
I learnt a lesson. You can have everything and still have nothing. The Torah’s answer is to have spiritual and communal goals to which to dedicate our lives. This way, when you have everything material, you can also have everything for your heart, mind and spirit.