In preparing the Jewish people for the future without him, Moses warns them not to adopt practices of the surrounding nations. He also gives a general piece of advice: “You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your God” (Devarim 18:13).
This is a bold statement, but what does it mean?
According to the Divrei Emet, we must involve our whole being, heart and soul, in developing our connection to God. The expression ‘wholehearted’ is understood by the Chizkuni (13th century French rabbi) to mean “to have an exclusive relationship with either man or God.”
In the introduction to his 11th century classic work, Duties of the Heart, Rabbeinu Bachya says this verse requires our exterior and interior to be consistent in the service of God, so the testimony of the heart, tongue, and limbs be alike, and that they support and confirm each other.
Bachya continues by saying that whoever exhibits conflicting behaviour in word or deed, people do not believe in his integrity and have no confidence in his truthfulness. If our heart’s intent conflicts with our words, our service to our God will not be whole, for He will not accept fake service from us.
From here we can understand the genius of Moses’ leadership. The call to be “wholehearted with Hashem” urges us to be sincere in everything we do both physically and spiritually, to act with integrity so our actions reflect our thoughts and we commit fully to our relationship with God.
- Alex Chapper is community rabbi at Borehamwood & Elstree Synagogue and the Children’s Rabbi: childrensrabbi.com. Mazeltov to Levi Chapper on his barmitzvah!