Rabbi Berkman’s Weekly Food For Thought

Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and is the author of this new weekly feature.  Learn with him on Monday nights at Cafe Night at Sixth & I Synagogue.

Hello Jew gatherers and gathered Jews.  It is with great excitement that I launch this new blog. First and foremost, I would like to thank the Gather the Jews brain trust for allowing me this opportunity to connect and communicate with the young professional Jewish community of D.C. It is a great honor to be on the GTJ team. The idea of this blog is to bring Torah thought and conversation into our everyday lives. By just checking in with GTJ, you can find food for thought to help satiate you, mind and soul.  Here’s the plan: at the beginning of each week, I will post a question or thought-provoking idea. Take some time, think about it, and send in your thoughts and comments. Toward the end of the week, I will add my comments and try to round up our conversation.  I look forward to all of your input. Thanks for joining in.

Let’s get started!


In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, God will give the Jewish the 10 commandments, making us his “chosen” people.  However before giving the commandments, God, through Moses, gives the Jews the choice of whether to become his prized nation or not. The nation answered as one: “all that God has spoken, we will do.”(19:8) Seemingly, a choice and commitment have been made.

Fast forward — well not too far — nine lines. The time has come and the Torah tells us that, as they prepared to hear God’s word, the Jewish people “stood at the bottom (under) of the mountain” (19:17).

The language used for the bottom of the mountain is “Tachtit” which, literally translated, means “under” the mountain. How do you stand under a mountain?

Our sages tell us that, in actuality, the people were standing underneath the mountain. God literally lifted the mountain over the heads of the Jewish people and told them “if you don’t accept this Torah, here will be your burial place.”

Knowing what we know now, did the Jews willingly accept the Torah, or was it forcefully thrust upon them? Was there any choice involved?

Chew on it and let me know what you think.