This week we read Parshas Yisro. This is the parsha, in which the Torah is given to the Jewish people, and Hashem tells us the Ten Commandments. The first of the Ten Commandments, as we all know, is “I am the Lord Your G-d Who has taken you out from Egypt,…” (Exodus 20:2) While this is the first of the Ten Commandments, is this also a mitzvah? Is one of the 613 mitzvohs of the Torah to believe in G-d?
Miamonidies counts this as does Nachmanadies. Other authorities, however, do not count this as a Mitzvah. At first glance this seems puzzling. How could belief in Hashem, which is so basic to Judaism not be a Mitzvah? The commentaries explain that in truth the question goes the other way. Who is this Mitzvah of belief in Hashem for? If a person already believes in Hashem, what is the point of the Mitzvah? If they don’t, then what will the mitzvah help – they won’t believe just because we say there is a Mitzvah to do so?
To understand this we must look back to the classic words of the Sefer Hachinuch. He tells us that there are six Mitzvohs that are constant; they never stop in one’s life for even a second. The first one of these is belief in Hashem. Every moment a person thinks about this, they fulfill a Mitzvah.
If we examine areas of knowledge in life, there are things that we call belief, and things that we call knowledge. The fact that we have 10 fingers is knowledge. How wealthy our neighbor is, is belief. We don’t really know for sure what they own, whether their car is leased, or they have a large credit card debt. The Mitzvah of belief in Hashem is to develop this from a stage of belief to a level of knowledge. We must live with belief of Hashem as an absolute fact, not as a likely probability.
In truth, the code of Jewish law begins with this concept. “Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Tamid – Hashem is constantly before me”. If a person always realizes that they are in the presence of Hashem, then the way they act, the way they speak, and what they do will be different. This is the Mitzvah of Emunah. Every second that we think about and develop the reality that we are in Hashem’s presence we are fulfilling this Mitzvah. This is an endless opportunity to constantly perform a Mitzvah, and connect ourselves to Hashem. If we really work on this, then every single aspect of our life can become elevated and refined.