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The Most Important Verse in the Bible!

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Our Sages debate which verse in the Torah is the most fundamental verse, encapsulating the entire Torah. The opinion of Rebbi Akiva, that “Love thy neighbor as oneself” is the most fundamental verse, is well known. There is, however, another opinion that states that the most important verse in the Torah is the verse dealing with the daily sacrifice. This opinion is difficult to understand. Firstly, we have commandments like Shabbat, loving God, etc, that seem to be far more fundamental than the instruction of the daily sacrifice. Secondly, the daily sacrifice is only applicable in Temple times. Is it possible that the most fundamental precept does not apply today, because we do not have theTemple in which to perform the daily sacrifice?

The great 16th century scholar, the Maharal of Prague, explains this opinion as follows. In the view of this opinion the purpose of the entire Torah is to[provide guidance on becoming a true servant of God. The Maharal explains that the true servant serves his master day in and day out. One who is willing to serve his master on some days but not on others is a freelance worker and not a true servant. Consistent daily service defines the true servant.

I once met someone who proudly announced that he only attends Synagogue services on days when feeling spiritually inspired. While, of course, no service of God should be disparaged, the person following such a course cannot be considered a true servant of God. Rather than the focus being on God, the focus has shifted to his own personal spiritual experience.

Having said this, in Parshat Tetzaveh we are commanded to light the Menorah in the Temple on a consistent daily basis. The light of the Menorah represents spiritual clarity and inspiration. Although the true servant of God serves consistently every day, independent of his level of inspiration, God commands us to continuously seek to find the spiritual light of inspiration. Bland, unemotional service is not what God has in mind. Consistent service with joy and inspiration is what the Torah is all about. Let us work on making this our aspiration.