Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Accepting the Torah -- All of It

My grandson (5.8 years old; I have a spreadsheet... are you surprised?) has become enamored with the mitzvah of standing up for his parents and grandparents.  I came home from work the other day and he made a point of making sure I saw him stand up for me when I walked into the living room.  He further noted to me -- with a huge grin -- that he had heard me coming in the front door and so he ran to sit down specifically so he could stand up when I entered the room.  Very cute; a real nachas moment.

The next day I heard his mother asking him for the fourth/fifth/nth time to pick up his toys.  She finally said with a bit of exasperation, "You know, listening to your mother is a mitzvah; and you told me how much you love doing mitzvos."  His answered, "Mom... I love doing the mitzvos that I want to do."  (Another nachas moment... but for different reasons, of course.)

The famous medrash says that at the moment of truth, when Klal Yisrael was poised to accept the Torah, HaShem held the mountain over their heads like a barrel and said, "If you accept my Torah, good; if not, then this will be your grave!"  Many ask on this medrash: Klal Yisrael had already proclaimed: נעשה ונשמע/we shall do and we shall always strive to learn more in order to do more, and we accept from today that whatever we learn it will be to us as if we already knew it when we accepted the Torah!  (My free, but on point, translation.)  If so, why the menacing threat at this point

In truth, HaShem's declaration was neither a threat nor menacing.  It was simply the plain, unadorned Truth.  They were in awe and feeling justifiable trepidation at they experienced the real import of what they were accepting.  The "threat" was really just a nudge to push them into doing what they truly wanted.  If so, one might ask (and many have): So just remove the light/sound/tremor show and they'll easily accept -- with all sincerity -- their mission, but without the force.

Acceptance of Torah is not enough.  Even full acceptance is not enough.  Acceptance of the Torah must perforce be accompanied with the full realization that there really is no choice.  There is no reality without the Torah, there is no Torah without a nation to live it.  We and the Torah and inextricably bound.  The Torah must be accepted by free and unfettered choice; it must also be understood that there is no life -- indeed no reality -- without Torah.  Acceptance of Torah comes with acceptance of that reality.

Of course קבלת התורה/the receiving and accepting the Torah means the entire Torah; there is no picking and choosing.  There are mitzvos we enjoy doing... and there are mitzvos we don't yet enjoy doing... and it all starts with that black and white world of the five year who knows there some mitzvos he likes, some he doesn't like, and even some he doesn't even want to like.  All the while knowing -- even when he rebels -- that there really is no choice.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…