Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Yitro

Na-aseh v’nishmah. We will do what we hear. This is the promise the people of Israel made to God at the foot of Sinai. Alerted that they were going to experience awesome teachings, they committed themselves “heart and soul” to observe and obey.

On the one hand, we celebrate this steadfast loyalty and honor those who, while standing at the foot of the mountain, committed the entirety of humanity to serve God. No longer “Avdae Paroh (Servants to Pharaoh),” we became “Avdae Elohim (Servants to the God – the Source of Justice and Freedom). No, we had not gotten there yet. It took 40 years of wandering and a new generation born in freedom to prepare us to enter the land of freedom. What a tremendous sociologic study; an amazing testimony of faith!

On the other hand, blind faith can be … blind. Na-aseh v’nishmah – we will obey. I think of mob mentality. I think of the propaganda machines. I think about how easy it is to manipulate people. I think about the parent who says, “Because I told you so.”

We need structure. Rare is the human that can do it all on his or her own. We currently fight the impact of COVID and the alienation we experience from one another. Virtual education is better than doing nothing, but our students lack the structure and daily interpersonal interaction to thrive fully.
At the same time, Our Rabbinic tradition teaches that the purpose of studying is to grow in mind and spirit. One must always have partners with whom to engage. This process pushes us to transcend the rules of learning information into the realm of applying our new-found knowledge. There is a world of difference between following the rules of learning spelling and grammar and applying them in various settings.

I fear that, in the interest of passing tests, we put too much emphasis on learning details and formulas and less on critical thought and application. We have a few generations of young adults with increased test scores but with diminished life skill training.

At the same time, because of COVID, becoming more isolated from inter-human interaction, we are losing touch with our emotional and vocal filters, experiencing greater paranoia, and different forms of depression begin to consume us.

Na-aseh v’nishmah. What is God calling on us to do? The beauty of Torah is that it is not supposed to be a literal document. There are no “hard and fast” rules that stand universally accepted. The world is not Black and White – it is multi-colored and gray. The original framers of Torah intended that it should reflect life, not illegitimate it. It calls us to pay attention to the world in which we live and to use our focus to make it whole.

We stand called to listen to each other and serve each other. I fear we are so lost in the rhetoric that we need regrounding. For so many of us, we are so stuck that we have to focus on tomorrow. I really cannot change who said or did whatever they said or did, but I am obligated to teach the future not to continue the feuds of the past. Whatever our rhetoric, and the hardened beliefs that support it, I have to allow the future to think anew, not bound by our prejudices.

Na-aseh v’nishmah – All the people answered, “All that God has spoken we will do” (19:8)

God replied, “I require guarantors.” Said the people of Israel, “The heaven and the earth shall be our guarantors.” God said, “They won’t last forever.” They responded, “Our fathers will guarantee it.”

God then said, “They are busy.” They answered, “Our children will guarantee it.” Said God, “These are excellent guarantors.” (Mechilta d’RaSHbY) It’s about a better tomorrow.

Shabbat Shalom.