A Tiny Hebrew Preposition Hides a Deeper Meaning

After the Bible tells us about the new Tablets of Stones with God’s Commandments Moses has made, an interesting verse appears:

“”And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

The Hebrew learners among you probably know the Hebrew preposition ‘Et’ {את} which has no equivalent in English. Learning when and why to properly use ‘Et’ can be a bit tricky for non-Hebrew speaking native to master as they learn Hebrew.

‘Et’ is used to indicate a direct object in a sentence. The reason I mentioned this Hebrew preposition is because it can be found in the verse above when it is written in Hebrew. The ‘Et’ is right in between ‘the Hebrew word ‘Le-Yiraha’ {ליראה} (‘fear’) and ‘Adonai Eloecha’ {אדוני אלוהיך} (the LORD your God’).

The founder of the Chassidic movement is Rabbi Israel the son of Eliezer who lived in Eastern Europe during the 18th century. He is known in the Jewish culture by his nickname ‘Baal Shem Tov’ {בעל שם טוב} (‘Besht’ {בעש”ט} in short) which means ‘Master of the Good Name.’

‘Baal Shem Tov’ learned a valuable lesson from the verse above. According to the ‘Baal Shem Tov,’ this is one of the cases in which the Hebrew preposition ‘Et’ should be understood in its other relatively rare meaning ‘WITH’ – which can be found in other biblical references as well.
Then, the ‘Baal Shem Tov’ explains the phrase ‘to fear the LORD your God’ by using an allegory of a father and son: When the son is little and his father tells him not to do dangerous things, the father and the son have TWO different kinds of fears. The father fears that something might happen to his child while the son fears out of respect for his father but not from the danger itself.

When the son is old enough and is able to understand things from a more mature spiritual perspective, both the father and the son fear from the SAME thing – the danger itself.

Hence, we have the deeper meaning of this verse, according to the ‘Baal Shem Tov’, in answer to the question ‘what does the LORD your God require of you?’ God requires of you to fear from walking the wrong path NOT because you fear the punishment but rather because you are able to understand that is not good for you…