Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and is the author of this new weekly feature. GTJ published the first part of this discussion on Sunday.
To be perfectly honest, I started this blog because I thought it might have given me a chance to backdoor my way into the Jewish Guy of The Year competition. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed to look at GTJ yesterday and not find my name on the list. Yes, I read the list again, name still wasn’t there. I guess there’s always next year. Good luck to all of the contestants!
Thank you to Tila, Will , Adam, and Josh for you insightful comments. Stephen we’ll give you some more time to finish the parsha.
The truth is that our sages and commentators spend quite a bit of time dealing with this question and the issue of free choice in general.
I would like to suggest, though, that the issue at hand is not one of whether or not the Jews really were given the choice of accepting the Torah. Rather, it is an issue of whether or not they realized the significance of the choice that they had just made.
God lifted Mount Sinai over the heads of the Jewish people and said “If you don’t accept it, there will be your burial place.” The Jews had already agreed to accept the Torah, without really knowing what it was all about. God is telling us, the Jewish people, that the world as a whole cannot exist without the Torah. He lifted the mountain over their heads to help them realize the great responsibility that they had just accepted upon themselves. Talk about a weight on your shoulders!
It is interesting to note the language our sages use to illustrate what God tells the Jews. “If you don’t accept it, there (sham) will be your burial place.” If all the Jews were standing in one place under the mountain shouldn’t the God say “Here (po) will be your burial place.”?
The message is that this decision is not just relevant to those of you standing here under this mountain. This decision has an impact on the entire world and all of it inhabitants, here, there, and wherever they may be.
What a tremendous responsibility. What an awesome opportunity, that is all of ours until this very day.
Thank you for reading. Shabbat shalom. Stay tuned for next week’s question!
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