In the Mishnah of Rabbi Eliezer, the son of Rabbi Yosi HaG'lili, the Sages said, "What is the biblical source to include prayer among the mitzvos? From the verse, 'You shall fear G‑d, your L‑rd, and you shall serve Him.' " Why is it from the verse to fear or have awe for HaShem?

I would like to know how he came to this conclusion, why is prayer included in the mitzvot because it's said that one should fear (have awe for) HaShem?

(I know that Ahavah and Yirah are two big pilars in faith, and that it's also said that prayer is Avodat Shebalev - Ta'anis 2a).

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    Perhaps clarify your question in light of the answer and comments. Are you assuming the proof is from the beginning of the verse, or that this verse has some significance that other similar verses lack? Consider clarifying.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 14:03
  • The word 'awe' has not negative sense. Maybe the hebrew word does not mean to have fear like from the fear from despotic ruler or terorrist. I would guess the awe before His presence, the awe before His face, the awe before His throne. Let me know if I am wrong, but I think this 'awe' just means that we are aware we are fully depended on Him. 1 Kings 19:11-12.
    – user18090
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


It's not the fear part; it's the and you shall serve Him part.

In the second paragraph of Shema it says "if you do the right thing, to both love God and serve Him with all your heart, soul, and wherewithal", and the rabbis interpret serving with your heart as prayer; so that verse is saying "if you do it, it's good." Okay then, where's the actual commandment to do so? "And you shall serve Him."

Notice the nice balance; the verse that commands it puts it next to awe of God, and the verse that offers reward for it puts it next to love of God, as we need both.

  • I know that it's the part 'serve Him' thats matter, but than why use this verse, there are many other verses that teach us to serve Him. I believe it was the Maharal that said: There is in avodas Hashem two things. One is called ahava and one is yirah. The (Tikunei) Zohar describes yirat hashem and ahavat hashem as the mitzvatic (hope ok to make up a word) two wings for our lives, very foundational mitzvot. The Alei Shur based on Yoma 86a also teached that these two form the basis of Avodat. The Chazal teaches that we can approach avodah in two ways....
    – Levi
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:40
  • .. the first is reflected by Jirah HaShem, reflected in the words "Our will is to do Your Will (Berachot 17a)". We want to do that which we think is best for us, and conclude that it's best for us doing and following the Ratzon of HaShem. We act in this case, out of awe for the Lord because we are afraid to make a wrong choice and to bear the consequences. The second approach is Ahavah, reflected in the words of Pirkei Avot 2:4 "Make His Will as your own (will), Make His Will yours." In this approach the Will of HaShem is the starting point and one makes one's own desires subservient to His...
    – Levi
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:47
  • ...(the personal will is subject to the Will of the Eternal), regardless of the subjective mind what one's own preferences and benefits are. The latter approach is reserved for lovers of G-d (see Ramban on Exodus 20: 6). Ahavah (love) is to serve without self-interest, Jirah (fear, awe) is serve Him with the realization there's to win or lose something, or as I would like to personally translate the fear to hurt him ( something to lose) and the need to receive His affection and goodness (win something)...
    – Levi
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:53
  • .. Back to prayer why use this verse which mention you shall fear G-d, it's already stated that prayer is sjebalev: To serve Him with all your heart.
    – Levi
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:55
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    @Levi It seems unreasonable to attack the answer for not addressing ideas or sources not mentioned in the question. If something is essential to the question, it should be edited into the question. It is similarly inappropriate for someone giving the "wrong answer", unless you specify in the question that you are only looking for sources that support one side.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 14:11

The source in the Torah that you quote from is Devarim 6:13. This is as it is brought by Rambam in his Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Mitzvot, 5. The Mishnah that Rambam is referring to is the Baraita of the 32 Middot of Aggadah. Like is stated in the Otzar Midrashim

הרמב״ם בספר המצות (עשין ל״ז) מביא מדה י״ז בנוסחא אחרת, ושם (עשין ה׳) מביא בשם משנתו של ר״א בנו של ריה״ג מנין לעיקר תפלה מצוה מהכא את ה׳ אלהיך תירא ואותו תעבוד, ואין זה בנוסחא לפנינו, גם הרשב״ץ מביא ממנו מה שאינו לפנינו בברייתא, ומזה ראיה כי היה לפניהם נוסח אחר

the specific version of text used by Rambam is not the same version of the text we have today. So to understand how Rambam understands this statement requires looking at his Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Tefillah, 1:1.

מצות עשה להתפלל בכל יום שנאמר ועבדתם את ה' אלהיכם, מפי השמועה למדו שעבודה זו היא תפלה שנאמר ולעבדו בכל לבבכם אמרו חכמים אי זו היא עבודה שבלב זו תפלה

The Rambam's statement "מפי השמועה למדו שעבודה זו היא תפלה" means according to Yad Malachi that this is the meaning of the word as taught, teacher to student, generation after generation, directly from Moshe Rabbeinu and that this meaning has an allusion, meaning a type of metaphor, parable or other indirect reference to it in the written portion of the Torah (אסמכתא בקרא).

A person who argues that it doesn't mean this and tries to argue that it means something else is essentially disagreeing with the teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu in a fashion similar to Korach and his group.

The Targum Onkelos translates this expression like Moshe Rabbeinu saying and serve Him (ואתו תעבד) means and worship Him (וקדמוהי תפלח), the idea of prayer.

Like is known from Hoshea 14:3, prayer took the place of the service in the Temple after the destruction of the Temple. This follows what we say in the Tachanun each morning after reciting Korbanot.

This source posuk from Devarim lists three different activities. The first listed is commonly translated, like you do, as fearing the L-rd, your G-d (from the verb תירא).

But another way to understand this expression is like is taught by Rabbi Eliyahu De Vidas in the introduction to Sefer Reishit Chochmah. He explains that the idea of fearing G-d is about action.

This is as it is understood from the use of the word in Tehillim 76:9. משמים השמעת דין ארץ יראה ושקטה

From the Heavens judgement is heard, the earth shakes (quakes) and is silent.

David HaMelech is referring in this Psalm to the teaching found in tractate Shabbat 88a which explains that when the nation of Israel hesitated in accepting the oral Torah, this caused an earthquake. After they agreed to accept the oral Torah, the quaking stopped.

In this context, the verb which is commonly translated as fear is meant here to emphasize the expression of fear, meaning shaking and movement. It is the idea of action, meaning the performance of the mitzvot of action, like wearing tzitzit and tefillin or shaking the lulav.

And so the posuk you source from Devarim means that we were brought out of Mitzrayim in order to fulfill the mitzvot of action and to worship G-d through prayer.

And through this we accomplish the third element of the posuk which is establishing G-d's name (like Onkelos translates "tishavea" as ובשמיה תקים) like it says at the end of Aleinu, On this day, He will be one and His name will be one.

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    The Targum Onkelos translates that the expression and serve Him (ואתו תעבד) means and worship Him (וקדמוהי תפלח), the idea of prayer. This is a circular argument. פלח just means service. Your claim that Targum means prayer is predicated on your conclusion. See For example the Targum to Genesis (2:5) ואנש לית למפלח ית אדמתא It doesn't mean that there was no one to pray to the ground!
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 22:34
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    You didnt quote Jastrow. You quoted Onkelos who uses the exact same word he uses for manual labour, as proof that it means prayer. This is dishonest.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 22:40
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    No. Onkelos translates as תפלח. That root has several possible meanings. One of them is worship. So it sounds like you are conceding that you misled the readers; that you know that the service referred to in the bible, with the root עבד and consistently rendered by Onkelos as פלח, is used for both divine service; i.e. worship, and manual labour. And you know that there is therefore not a shred of evidence whatsoever to which application of עבד / פלח is being employed by Onkelos, and certainly no proof that the intent is prayer in particular.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 22:47
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    Your claim about the meaning of יראה is similarly shaky (no pun intended), is this interpretation given by R. De Vidas? Is it your own? If the latter, how do you know that Ibn Ezra and Radak are wrong in understanding that it is the inhabitants of the Earth; not the Earth itself, that are the subjects of יראה? Either way, if a point is essential to the answer, it should be edited in; not relegated to footnotes.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 22:53
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    A person who argues that it doesn't mean this and tries to argue that it means something else is essentially disagreeing with the teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu in a fashion similar to Korach and his group. This is extremely cavalier and offensive to Ramban who writes in his animadversions to Sefer Hamitsvot (asseh 5) that the verse is not actually speaking about prayer.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 15:33

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