2004This week's torah portion deals with the revelation of God to the Jewish people. Here are a few lines from the text:
Toward a Meaningful Life
Exodus Chapters 19 and 20
19:7 Moses came [back] and summoned the elders of the people, conveying to them all that God had said
19:8 all the people answered as one and said, 'All that God has spoken, we will do.' Moses brought the people's reply back to God.
19:9 God said to Moses, 'I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that all the people will hear when I speak to you. They will then believe in you forever.' Moses told God the people's response [to that].
19:17 Moses led the people out of the camp toward the Divine Presence. They stood transfixed at the foot of the mountain.
20:1 G-d spoke all these things, saying:
20:2 I Am the Lord your God, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
Your Torah Navigator
1. If someone had personal revelation from God conveying a message, isn't it obvious that a person would adhere to the message?
2. Why did Moses have to tell God the people's reply?
3. Why did Moses have to encourage the people to go out and meet the Divine Presence?
4. In the first commandment God says: "I am the Lord your God." Isn't this obvious? What is the purpose of this introduction?
Below is a small Midrash about the quote "All that G-d has spoken, we will do":
Midrash Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer 40:1
God asked the other nations of the world: Will you accept my Torah? They replied: "Well, what does it say in your Torah?" Then God asked Israel (the Jews): Would you accept my Torah? They answered together: "We will cherish Your Torah, and commit ourselves to keeping and doing whatever it says!"
Your Midrash Navigator
1. Which nations do you think God asked?
2. What was so wrong with asking what is written in the Torah before accepting it?
3. What was so special about the Jewish people accepting the Torah without questioning the content of the Torah?
4. Are we permitted to question and explore the content of the Torah today?
If we take a quick look at the Ten Commandments, we can hardly be impressed as most of the commandments are fairly simple and not so creative. For example, "Honor thy father and mother." Isn't this obvious? Keeping Shabbat (a day of rest) is also very easy to achieve by ourselves. Most people do not work seven days a week. Not killing, stealing, or committing adultery are all pretty clear-cut issues which we can relate to very easily.
So why all the big deal about revelation? Here is one way to understand it:
Everything around us can be perceived in one of two ways; in an ordinary and simple way or a meaningful and divine way. By using these Ten Commandments, G-d teaches us a great lesson. We can take even the most mundane object or action and make it divine and spiritual. We have this ability within us to take the simple things and transform them into the most amazing objects. For example; a beautiful picture is only a well done collection of colors and shapes that come together to create something beautiful.
We have this gift to take the simple and mundane and transform it to the beautiful and meaningful. We have Jewish traditions and history. We can perceive them as something ordinary and mundane or we can take these lessons and transform the experience to something more meaningful and beautiful. This is the lesson from God's Ten Commandments. We have the responsibility and ability, so just do it!
Prepared by Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, Campus Rabbi/Jewish Educator, University of Maryland, College Park.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Parshat Yitro at MyJewishLearning.com.