Sunday, February 21, 2010

Double Commitment - One Wavelength

Reuven Shefigal escreveuàs 11:54 de 13 de Fevereiro de 2010
"And these are the judgements you shall place before them". And as the commentaries express - place them neatly and orderly like a fine table is set.

From Avraham to Moshe and the receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, passed some 400 years of waiting to have this Godly system for man presented. Avraham was described back then as the right founding father because he could be trusted to "command his sons and household after him, to keep Hashem's way and to act with righteousness and judgement".

We are used to thinking that the Bnei Yisrael said the famous Na'ase Ve'Nishma, declaring their commitment to keep the laws without questions as to content -meanings, and will strive to study to understand the laws as well. In this weeks parsha the event is brought down, and we see that not only did they say only Na'ase at first , but also when Moshe told them the Mishpatim they first answered Na'ase. Then Moshe made a big party inviting the youngmen with sacrifices and feast, then he wrote the laws down and read them, and only then they declared Na'ase Ve'Nishma.

The Torah records the sequence of events in a strange way. First there is the general call to obey everything Hashem will tell them, and they said Na'ase. Then there was the giving of the Ten Commandments, and then a continuation, as depicted by the "vav" at the start of Parshat Mishpatim, then the laws were given, Moshe told the people the laws. They declared Na'ase. Had a party, Moshe wrote and read and they declared Na'ase Ve'Nishma. The Mishpatim thus are part of the Ten Commandments, and only with them is Moshe back with the people to celebrate, hear their acceptance, and then continue, rising up Mt. Sinai and entering the thickness of the cloud, to receive the rest of the Torah, and at the end of 40 days receives the first tablets.

I wish to point out 2 issues. One, that Na'ase VeNishma is relevant once the format of the Torah is presented. All the while that Bnei Yisrael received an oral passing of Hashem's commands they agreed to do anything the Lord requests. Once Moshe wrote it down, they realized that Torah is composed of the oral and written. They saw that the written law is the basis and that it requires great study to extract the oral law from it. Then they said Ve'Nishma, that they will study the written law. 

Second, that the Ten Commandments are the chapter heads of a complete system of law, touching the particulars of every aspect of life. Not general codes, but a way of life, the way of Hashem, that was mentioned in the verse about Avraham. Interestingly, the verse states, keeping and acting, indicating the two-way system of the Torah, refraining from the bad and persuing the good. This was the model Torah that Avraham instituted in his household, positive and negative laws, as King David sang in Tehillim (Psalms), "turn from bad and do good". 

The Na'ase commitment to perform the mitzvoth relates therefore to the revealed. It starts with the basic knowledge that Hashem commanded and its our duty to perform His Will, even to bend our will to be one with Hashem. It’s a very personal arena where naturally one would want to understand as much as possible. Comes Na'ase and demands a willingness to do as the law states without understanding. It is like the written law, the revealed part. The Ve'Nishma commitment to study and gain clarity, to personally grow thru your aspiration and actualization of new understandings now grasped, relates to that knowledge and wisdom which is concealed from you right now, at your personal level, but its waiting to be grabbed. In this way it is like the oral law, that represents the proper and true teaching and application of the written law.

A Torah scholar reads thru Parshat Mishpatim, and the Talmudic and Aggadic teachings in his soul jump to life. His appreciation of the material in the written Torah is enhanced in proportion to his knowledge. Still, he is caught in the cycle of Na'ase Ve'Nishma, just like the simple Jew. Understand this well, that once one progresses in this cycle, the Nishma, concealed, oral law, once acquired, becomes your Na'ase, revealed, written law, and of course the obligation to act accordingly, in alliance with your new level of understanding. And so you will continue to the next level of aspirations to learn more and more of that which is still concealed from you. This cycle carries the Jew throughout his life with constant personal growth.

Moshe was commanded here to set the laws before them, orderly and clearly. Before he passed on, Hashem told him to put the Torah in their mouths, and called the Torah a song. There is an enlightening distinction to make between these two aspects, the Torah that Moshe set before us, and the Torah he put in our mouths. We recite everyday after Amida, the quote from Yeshayahu the Prophet, ''This is my covenant, my spirit that is upon you and my words that are in your mouths will never ever leave you or your sons or your son's sons, forever". I am sure the prophet was correct, and if we look around us at the Jewish nation and see so much violation of the laws of the Torah, not to panic. This guarantee clearly states that the Torah is in all of our mouths. I think the meaning is that, although the acts are lacking, the Na'ase aspect, the Nishma aspect is very alive, the seeking and clarification that the Jewish nation is undergoing, testify to the fulfillment of the prophet's words. Even where whole Jewish societies don't practice Judaism, the Na'ase, revealed laws, they will always remain in search for the Nishma, the concealed. This we see, that somewhere down the line, the return to Torah takes place.

These sparks of Torah commitment were implanted by Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, they're in our Jewish souls, in our mouths and such, a common tongue must be found with every individual and group yearning to talk about Judaism. Oral law thus includes this important feature of bringing our brothers and sisters close by recognizing that there is no lack of conversation material. We are all, more or less, on the same wavelength.