Secret of faith: Agree to do before you heard what God requires

Understanding Torah and mitzvot is important, but must never be thought of as a condition.

Phil Chernofsky,

Tablets of the Law
Tablets of the Law
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Take a survey. Ask everyone you run into, In which sedra did we say NAASEH V'NISHMA? We predict that most will answer, YITRO. Some will suspect a trick question. And some will actually know.

The fact is, in Parshat Yitro - before the account of Matan Torah, G-d instructs Moshe to tell Beit Yaakov and Bnei Yisrael (the women and the men) about the mutual commitment between Him and the people of Israel... And the people respond together, all that HaShem speaks to us, NAASEH - we shall do!
Exactly what the people were told at this point is not the point. Maybe it included the sample of mitzvot and details from the previous weeks. Maybe it was a commitment to all of Torah and Mitzvot - some known, some not yet known.

The point here is, that their commitment was summed up by the one word NAASEH.
Towards the end of next week's sedra, Mishpatim - i.e. after the account of Maamad Har Sinai and the plethora of mitzvot presented in Mishpatim, the people once again proclaim, as one, that all that G-d tells them, NAASEH, we will do.

Then, a bit later in the Torah, there is a SEFER HABRIT, a book of the Covenant (commentaries say it was the first part of the Torah and the mitzvot we were taught at Mara) and when Moshe read from this Sefer to the people, we responded with the more familiar, NAASEH V'NISHMA!

Without taking anything away from NAASEH V'NISHMA (which cannot be done because of how special and unique that commitment is), Let's ponder the fact that we said NAASEH twice, and then a third time when it was partnered with NISHMA.

Let's leave NAASEH for a brief moment. What does NISHMA mean? We will hear, maybe. Perhaps better is we will understand. The standard way to understand NAASEH V'NISHMA is that we were committing ourselves to doing whatever G-d asks of us and them the understanding will follow, or not. Meaning that Doing will not depend upon the success or lack thereof of what we are being asked to do (or not to do).

Perhaps, we, the Jewish People, needed to give a blanket commitment (twice) to do all of what G-d asks of us, without qualifying it with NISHMA. Understanding Torah and mitzvot is important, but must never be thought of as a condition.

The first level of commitment is "We will do!" - unqualified. Obviously, we must hear what G-d wants, in order to do it. But understanding comes later - not at the moment of commitment.

NISHMA becomes a lifelong challenge, but NAASEH is step ONE.


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