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ON FAITH

by Avraham Chaim Feldman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"All that Hashem has said, we will do and we will listen (na'aseh v'nishma)" (Exodus 24:7).

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"All that Hashem has said, we will do and we will listen (na'aseh v'nishma)" (Exodus 24:7).

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 88a) relates that when the Children of Israel accepted the Torah by saying "we will do - na'aseh" before "we will listen - v'nishma," 600,000 heavenly angels descended and constructed two crowns for each member of the nation. The Jewish people's declaration was clearly held in the highest regard, and is labeled by the Talmud as one which, up until this point, had been known only to the angels.

However, on the surface, the high regard in which this phrase is held is puzzling. Isn't this more of a careless statement than a righteous one? How did they know that they would be able to carry out that which Hashem would command them when they did not yet know what the Torah required? Is there anything special about embarking on a journey without first looking to see where you are headed?

The answer reveals a major aspect in our relationship with Hashem, an aspect about which we must be constantly aware. The Jewish people's acceptance of G-d's commandments before even knowing what they might entail, demonstrated a very deep recognition and understanding; it was not just a blind agreement. This acceptance demonstrated their complete trust in Hashem, that He would not obligate them in anything that they would not be able to bear. Once this understanding was in place, it made no difference what those obligations might be, for they would certainly be doable. Hashem was not out to "get" the Children of Israel; He wanted only to establish a bond with them, and this would be achieved by giving them attainable goals and guidelines towards which to strive.

The Midrash says that when Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, each one immediately asked, "What is written in it?" to which Hashem responded with a different commandment for each nation, which He knew they would not be willing to accept. Of course, each nation turned down the offer. Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, rosh yeshiva (dean) of the Yeshiva Ner Israel, explains that the mere question of "what is written in it?" was itself a denial of the relationship that Hashem was trying to build with the nation that would accept the Torah. It did not make a difference what the nations did not like in the Torah. The mere question revealed their lack of trust in Hashem's will to give them mitzvot that would be within the boundaries of human ability, and thus they were unfit to be the bearers of the Torah. Conversely, the Jewish people recognized that accepting Hashem's guide for living, no matter what it said, would be for their ultimate benefit.

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Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is a senior at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.

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