The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Shvat 24, 5768/January 31, 2008

"'We will do and obey all that G-d has declared.'"
(Exodus 24:7)

The early days in the life of the nation of Israel were by any measure exciting times. When Israel finally emerged on dry land, safe from the Egyptians and free to pursue their destiny, it would be reasonable to assume that the people's most turbulent and traumatic times were behind them. Yet, dramatic events continued to shape the nation. If there had been newspapers in those days the morning headlines might have read like this: "Confrontation at Marah: People Demand Water!" "Manna Falls From Heaven!" "Miracle at Massah: Water from a Rock!" "Amalek Attacks Without Warning: Israel in Disarray!" "Moses and Joshua Lead Israel to Victory!" "World Renowned High Priest of Idolatry Recognizes the One G-d of Israel!" And, of course, "G-d Reveals Law at Sinai!" These bold headlines would have certainly recorded the major news stories of the era, but, if we can imagine for a moment that newspaper editors in those days were similar to our present day arbiters of what is important and what is not, in all likelihood the following headline would be buried somewhere near the classifieds: "Israelites Issue Statement: 'We Will Do and Obey.'"

At first glance the Israelite declaration of intent does indeed pale in light of the many miracles being wrought by G-d. The skirmish with Amalek was undoubtedly more cataclysmic in nature: People were injured and killed. A psychic scar was inflicted on Israel that would become an inseparable aspect of their spiritual makeup for all time. Yitro's abandonment of the prevailing pagan ethic of the time and his embrace of monotheism would certainly have had a greater worldwide impact. Yet the truth be told, none of these events measure up in significance to the "Na'aseh ve'nishma" - "We will do and obey" commitment of the newly liberated children of Israel.

All of G-d's "efforts," from His first meeting with Moses at the burning bush, through the ten plagues which He visited on Egypt, the unparalleled splitting of the Sea of Reeds, and the revelation at Sinai, were leading up to this moment when the entire nation of Israel would stand as one man and declare its unconditional commitment to do G-d's will. Why should G-d reveal Himself to man if man is not to respond in kind? To what end are miracles if all they inspire is a conditional love? Why deliver a nation from its enemies if that nation demurs from embracing their Deliverer? Why entrust to a people a law and a way of life if their attachment to His instruction is on-again-off-again?

At the risk of hyperbole, it could be said that this is the moment that G-d has been waiting for from the dawn of creation. For the perfection of G-d's creation is achieved in man's recognition of His sovereignty. Our sages have compared the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai to a marriage, the groom being G-d and the bride Israel. The Torah is likened to the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract. But it is all for naught without the bride's consent, and this is contained in the two Hebrew words, "Na'aseh ve'nishma" - "We will do and obey." Spoken by the entire nation these two words confirm and define the intimate relationship between G-d and Israel. This unbroken bond continues to make headlines.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK to hear Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the Torah portions of Yitro and Mishpatim, the repentance of the world's greatest idolater, receiving Torah at Sinai, applying it to every day life, and making a place for G-d in our world by conducting our lives in holiness.

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Part 1
Part 2