A session on fiscal responsibility I attended at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries was addressed first by two rabbis from New York, and then by a courtly banker from some Southern state of the USA.

In rapid-fire, staccato speech patterns, the rabbis flew through their presentations, intent on squeezing as much information as humanly possible into their allotted timeslots. Their monologues were a stream of jokes and advice, all delivered in that nasal Brooklyn accent. When the portly financier finally won the floor, he approached the podium, surveyed the assembled crowd and drawled, “Rabbis and gentlemen, how slowly can y’all listen?”

No doubt about it, Jews speak fast. As a society we tend to be highly literate, with a love for languages. Whereas some view our natural loquacity as a sign of pushiness, I tend to believe it’s a character trait we picked up from G‑d.

Say what?

Many are surprised to learn that the Ten Commandments were really one. According to the Midrash, G‑d miraculously encapsulated all 10 statements of the Decalogue into the words “I am the L‑rd your G‑d.”1Although we read the text as 10 separate statements, the Jews standing at the base of Mount Sinai somehow heard all of it simultaneously.

Now, aside from demonstrating a dexterity of expression that would put any NooYoiker to shame, what earthly purpose could possibly have been served by G‑d’s demonstration of speed-talking? If He wanted us to live up to—and be inspired by—a full set of ten expressions, why did He deliver them in shorthand?

I am the L‑rd your G‑d

When embarking on any new endeavor, there is an understandable tendency to either panic with terror or to act overconfidently, both of which lead to inevitable disaster. There is a fine line between being overwhelmed by your responsibilities and missing out on your opportunities. Unfortunately, many fall over to one of the two extremes.

Our only saving grace is to constantly bear in mind that G‑d runs the world, and that our ultimate success or failure is wholly dependent on His will. All our lives and loves, our trying or crying, can be summed up in the phrase “I am the L‑rd your G‑d.”

No one is suggesting we abnegate personal responsibility, nor is there any guarantee of success. It is still up to us to fulfill each distinct commandment we come across. We live lives of individualized richness, determined to live up to G‑d’s plan, but ultimately aware that the strands of our existence, and everything we learn in our travels, are all just a way of G‑d saying, “I am the L‑rd, your G‑d.”