Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:34)
Just after G-d’s announcement of the heavy hail to hit Egypt, He warns the people to gather their belongings and bring them indoors (9:19). The Torah then discloses that those who feared the word of G-d brought in their belongings, while those that did not pay attention to the word of G-d left them out (9:20-21). If one scenario is that people feared the word of G-d, why is its inverse: “those that did not pay attention” (and not “people that did not fear G-d”)?
Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair points out that fearing G-d leads to reverence, while not paying attention leads to apathy. One can know there’s a G-d and believe the Torah to be the word of G-d, but it takes internalizing one’s knowledge and conscientiously adhering to the Torah’s laws to cultivate mindfulness and awareness of G-d. The Hebrew word for “pay attention”, sim lev (literally, set your heart to it) highlights the idea that attention to our actions is so important, perhaps even more so than the actions themselves. The Torah teaches us that if we pay attention, our hearts will follow, and will enable us to live more intentionally and passionately.