Friday, May 30, 2014

“How odd of G-d to choose the Jews.”

Once more we reach my parsha in the Torah where the third aliyah that we read during the weekday, the aliyah of Yisroel, begins with “the sons of Murray!”  
I love this parsha…    
Do I detect skepticism among some of you?  The parsha plainly says: בְּנֵי מְרָרִ, that’s “b’nai,” the sons of; and mem resh resh yud, which certainly sounds like M r r y or, in my case, Murray!   All right, so the Torah pronounces it Merari.  But all that means is that, for the gentile world, the sons of Merari gradually became Murray’s.  After all, Kohein became Cohen, nu?

However, perhaps a more important feature of this week’s parsha is not the parsha of Naso itself but, what follows.
And what follows is Shavuous – one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals where all Jews were required to travel to Yerushalayim to bring Offerings to the Bais HaMikdosh, our Holy Temple.
And, Shavuous, where G-d Gave His Holy Torah to His Chosen people on Har Sinai.
Where the Jewish People said: “Na’aseh v’nish’mah,” We shall do and we shall hear!
This is the seminal moment of Jewish History when the Children of Israel Choose to become the Chosen People!

(For the rest of the non-Jewish world, the Christian holiday of Pentecost comes somewhere around this day, June 8th this year.
This year, Shavuous begins on Tuesday night, June 3rd, and it continues on June 4th and June 5th.
Pentecost, meaning the “50th day,” is the day associated with the apostles speaking in the different languages of all of the Jews that came from around the world to celebrate Shavuous in Jerusalem which is, according to the Torah, 50 days after Passover.)

I heard this story from a lawyer – I am not sure who.
He was a relatively successful lawyer and was trying a case where the next court date was supposed to be on Shavuous.  
He explained to the Judge that he could not make that court date as it was a Jewish holy day and he was not allowed to work on that day.
The Judge told him: “Mr. Lawyer.  I am Jewish.  I celebrate the Jewish holidays of Passover and Chanukah.  So don’t try and make up some story about some invented holiday that I have never heard of!”
The Judge did eventually come to find out that this was a real Jewish holiday but, that is an example of how little known is Shavuous, even to most non observant Jews.

Nonetheless, over 3,300 years ago, Am Yisroel; the Jewish people, received the Torah at Har Sinai and formally became G-d’s Chosen People. 
Moshe Rabbeinu informs the Jewish people that G-d tells them: 
“And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.” 

However, we are informed that it was not that G-d Chose us, rather that Israel Chose G-d.

The Midrash tells us that G-d not only revealed Himself to the Jewish People but – to all the Nations of the world.

We learn that G-d first went to the children of Esav and asked them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
The Children of Esav answered, “What’s in it? 
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
The Children of Esav said: “L-rd of the Universe, the very essence of our father Esav is that he is a murderer.  As it says, (Bereishis: 27:22) ‘And the hands were the hands of Esav,’ and (Bereishis: 27:40) ‘By the sword you shall live.’ 
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”

G-d then went to the children of Amon and Moav and He said to them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
The Chidren of Amon and Moav answered, “What’s in it?” 
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
The Children of Amon and Moav said: “L-rd of the Universe, our very essence is that we come from adultery. As it says (Bereishis: 19:36), ‘And Lot's two daughters conceived from their father.’
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”

G-d then went to the children of Yishmael and He said to them, “Will you accept My Torah?”
 The Children of Yismael answered: “What’s in it?”
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not steal.”
The Children of Yishmael said: “L-rd of the Universe, our very essence is that we live from thievery and robbery. As it says (Bereishis: 16:12), ‘his hand will be upon all, and everyone's hand upon him…’
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”

Hashem went among all the nations of the world.  There was not a nation to whom G-d did not speak and on whose door G-d did not knock, asking them whether they wished to accept His Torah.  And every nation refused after hearing what was in the Torah.

 After G-d had spoken to all the nations of the world, G-d came to the Children of Yisroel and He said to them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
And the Childen of Yisroel said: “Na’aseh v’nish’mah; We shall do and we shall hear!”
We learn that Israel immediately pledged their loyalty to whatever Hashem wanted them to do even before they knew what was being asked of them.
This is the one seminal moment in Jewish history when the entire Jewish Nation spoke as One and proclaimed to G-d – Whatever you ask of us, we will do – even before we know what it is.
Israel Chose G-d and thereby became the Chosen People.

For most Torah observant Jews, the above is sort of “inside baseball,” a well known midrash.
However, I heard an additional understanding of “Na’aseh v’nish’mah” from one of our Kollel rabbis, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, the other night –

Judaism is not a religion.   It is a Relationship.
“Na’aseh v’nish’mah; We will do (whatever you want) and (then) we will hear (what you want us to do)” is the Relationship that the Jewish People pledged to Hashem in their Greatest Moment at Har Sinai.
And, for over 3,300 years, we have been trying to remember to infuse this sacred Relationship which we Chose to have with G-d into every aspect of our lives.

And, for men, there is no more important place to remember to instill this Relationship than in marriage.
“We will do and then we will hear” is, quite frankly, the opposite of my and, I suspect, many men’s responses to their wives’ requests.

G-d Chose the Jews because the Jews Chose to have this special Relationship with G-d.
There is not a married couple who, somewhere inside of them, does not want this special Relationship with their spouse.
The Torah was given to us to transform our lives by taking each mitzvah; each lesson that the Torah can teach us, and applying it to every facet of our life.
For men, imagine the Relationship you could have with your wife if every time she asked you anything, your immediate response was – I will do whatever you ask, even before you tell me what it is….
May we all be zocheh to such a Relationship with our spouse’s and to remember that we Chose this Relationship at Mt. Sinai by proclaiming to the world that we agree to do what is necessary before we even know what it is that is necessary to do.
Gut Shabbos and Gut Yom Tov.

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