“What a strange world it is,” Rabbi Henoch of Alexander said, “When it comes to our material livelihood, which in the end is in God’s hands, we boast about how well we have done for ourselves, but concerning our reverence for God, which is up to us, we say God has made it too hard to come close to Him”.
The right way, said Rabbi Henoch, is in the sidra: “When it says, ‘What does the Lord your God ask of you, but to revere the Lord your God?’ (Deut. 10:12), the important word is me’immach – ‘of you’. It is your own endeavours that will bring you to reverence for God!”
An analogy: the Talmud (Shab. 88b) says, “When the Almighty sought to give the Torah to Moses, the angels objected. A unique treasure like the Torah should stay in heaven, they argued! Human beings would not appreciate it!”
God told Moses to answer the protesters. “What does the Torah say?” Moses asked them. “‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’. Were you angels slaves in Egypt that God needed to take you out?
What does the Torah say? ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain’. Do angels ever go to court and feel the temptation to take the Divine name in vain?
“What does the Torah say? ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’. Do you go to work and need a day of rest? ‘Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery’. Are you tempted to commit human transgressions? You do not need the Torah; human beings do.”
The moral? Only angels have a ready-made spiritual life. In the Divine Presence they constantly proclaim “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3).
It is not so with human beings. They are subject to countless earthly temptations and can take nothing for granted.
Unless they work on their spirituality it will not eventuate. Unless their hearts feel, their eyes see, their ears hear and their minds reason, life will not reveal God to them.
However, if they make the effort, they can rise, as Maimonides says, even higher than the angels.