וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל מָה ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אִם לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ
And now, Yisroel, what does Hashem, your God, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your God — to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve Hashem, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul (10:12)
By saying “Only to fear Hashem” Moshe implies that the trait of fearing Hashem is relatively simple to attain. On this, the Gemora questions whether fear of Hashem is really such a simple thing, and then answers that for Moshe it was simple, but for others it is difficult.
The conclusion of this Gemora is very difficult to understand; after all, Moshe was surely aware that the Jewish People were not on the great level that he was on. If so, why would Moshe, the greatest of all educators, tell his students that fearing Hashem was simple, when he knew that for them it wasn’t?
Perhaps one could answer as follows:
The Sefer Panim Yafos notes that if we look at the verse, it does not say, “Fear Hashem your God and go in His ways,” it says, “Fear Hashem to go in His ways,” which implies that fearing Hashem is a crucial component of following in Hashem’s ways — which, as the Ibn Ezra explains refers to Hashem’s mitzvos. Therefore, by referring to fearing Hashem to go in His ways, we can suggest that Moshe was telling the Jewish People that there was something about their approach towards mitzvah observance that Hashem was asking from them, and that attitude, for Moshe, was achieved with ease.
Accordingly, we can return to our original question: Did Moshe not realize that his level of mitzvah observance was far greater than everyone else’s? If so, why would Moshe suggest to them that it was only a simple thing?
The answer is that performing Hashem’s mitzvos in the appropriate way can indeed be simple; it just depends on one’s mindset. To illustrate this, imagine a bar mitzvah boy walking through the crowd in an enormous hall filled with guests. Each person he approaches hands him a hefty envelope filled with cash. Soon enough, his pockets can’t hold everything and he carries around with him a huge duffle bag. By the end of the night, the bar mitzvah boy is schlepping two huge, heavy suitcases filled to the brim with his bar mitzvah gifts. Now, whereas on any other day, this boy would never manage to carry around such a weight — especially for such a long time and especially with such a smile on his face — today was different, because he knew that every extra pound in his bag was a significant gain to his bank balance. As such, not only did the smile not leave his face, with every extra “weight” it grew and grew.
Moshe was telling us that the same is true of our approach to mitzvos — if we appreciate the great benefit we receive from every mitzvah we perform, and every nuance within that mitzvah, we would not consider any mitzvah a burden in any way; quite the opposite in fact. Every stringency and beatification of the mitzvah would bring us greater and greater joy for we would realize the immense benefit we would be getting.
Therefore, Moshe certainly knew the level that the Jewish People were on, yet he wanted to tell them that if they just changed their mindset when performing mitzvos, they themselves would come to see it as a simple thing, just like him.
The Ran asks the above question using the following parable: Moshe telling them that they should only
fear Hashem is like someone with millions of gold coins saying to his friend without even a single gold coin, “all that is asked from you is one gold coin!” (Derashos HaRan,10).
To answer the Ran’s parable (above) with a parable: The person without a single gold coin was in fact the owner of great wealth, he just did not know how to access it, but when he discovered this, the single gold coin that was requested of him was in fact a very small request.