Rabbi Yonah Burr
Mishpatim: Heavenly Help
ויקח ספר הברית ויקרא באזני העם ויאמרו: כל אשר דבר ד' נעשה ונשמע
He (Moshe) took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and the said, “Everything that Hashem has spoken, we will do and we will obey!”
This week’s Parsha continues with the theme of our accepting the Torah at Sinai, describing the enthusiastic acceptance and readiness of the people to do whatever Hashem would ask of them.
The Gemara in tractate Berachos 32b records an amazing dialogue between Hashem and the Jewish People.
Hashem says to Klal Yisroel, “I will never forget the sacrifices and service that you performed for me in the wilderness”. Klal Yisroel responds “Hashem, if you never forget, perhaps you will always remember our sin of the Golden Calf?” to this Hashem responds, “that I plan to forget”. Says the Jewish People, “but then perhaps you will forget how we accepted the Torah?” to this says Hashem, “the sin of the Golden Calf I will forget, while your enthusiastic acceptance of the Torah I will never forget”.
Our saying of those famous words, נעשה ונשמע is what sustained us throughout our entire existence.
But we are also aware of another Gemara; In Shabbos 88a, we are told that Hashem needed to lift the mountain above our heads, as a threat, to coerce us to accept the Torah! How do we reconcile this blatant contradiction?
Tosfos there explains, that even though we had stated previously that we will readily accept the Torah, perhaps we would rescind and ‘chicken out’ once we saw the awesome fire of Har Sinai. In fact, our sages tell us that we were so overwhelmed that our souls actually left our bodies and we needed to be resurrected; this would certainly be enough to scare anyone away!
But this only begs the question; did we accept the Torah willingly, or were we forced?
Rabbenu Yonah in his famous work, Sha’arei Teshuva, writes, that when someone sincerely resolves to do something, it is considered as if he already did it. He further writes, that even if we don’t even know what it is we are accepting, if we firmly resolve to do whatever it is that we will be asked, we already have the reward as if we did it. When the Jews were commanded on the first of Nissan to have a Korban Pesach ready on the 10th of Nissan, the describes it as if they immediately went to do it, even though the command was not effective until 10 days later.
Rabbenu Yonah explains that this is what made our acceptance of the Torah so special; we were prepared to do whatever would be asked of us, even before we even knew what it would be.
Perhaps this give us a deeper understanding of the words of Tosfos; it is only because we already accepted the Torah willingly, that Hashem already credited us with having already received it. That is precisely why we merited the ‘Divine Assistance’ to follow through with our commitment. Hashem did not force us, he merely ‘helped’ us follow through what we already said we would do. This is a life lesson; if we sincerely express a desire to do the right thing, Hashem will treat us as if we already did it, and ensure that it actually happens!
Have a wonderful Shabbos.