Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Parashat Yitro- Accepting the brit

There are many midrashim about how the Israelites came to accept the Torah. Some are positive; others less so, some even seem to contradict.
When Israel stood tachtit hahar, under the mountain*, God lifted the mountain and held it over the heads of the Israelites, threatening to bury Israel if they did not accept. (*Shmot 19:17)
Did we accept the Torah without hesitation or only through fear?  Some say it had been Israel’s destiny to accept Torah no matter what?
When God came to Israel to offer the Torah, God asked, “What will you give me in return?” “Our ancestors will be our guarantors,” said Israel, but God rejected this. “Our prophets will be our guarantors,” said Israel, but God rejected this as well.  Finally Israel said, “Our children will be our guarantors,” and this God accepted.
Torah and Judaism are not merely about our ancestors or our prophets, but about our future.  It is the connection dor l’dor, generation to generation that makes Judaism special and ties us all together as Jews.
God went to many people in the world with the Torah.  But each time the people would ask what was in it before agreeing to accept God’s word.  Then God came to the Israelites.  “Will you accept My Torah,” asked God. “Na’aseh v’nishma; we will do and we will understand*,” answered the Israelites. (*The Israelites say na’aseh to God twice. Shmot 19:8- “All that God has said we will do.” Shmot 24:4, Mishpatim-“We will do and we will understand.”)
Na’aseh- we will do. The Israelites accept the Torah prior to standing under the mountain. Na’aseh- we will do, in the future- for all generations with our children as our guarantors. Na’aseh- we will do- every one of us together, as a people and a community.
And God spoke to Moshe, “…the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever*.” (Shmot 19:9) L’olam- forever- for all generations. How can it be that a promise can be made by one generation for all generations forever? It is said that all generations stood at Sinai together, all Jewish souls, whether past, present, or future, those born to Judaism and those who choose it- accepting the yoke of Torah together.
Today we will stand as we read the Aseret Dibrot, the Ten Commandments, accepting again, as we did in the past and will again in the future, the mitzvot and the brit, the covenant with God.

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