Saturday, January 22, 2011

Na'aseh venishma

It says in Avos de’rebbi Noson (22:1):
רבי חנינא בן דוסא אומר... כל שמעשיו מרובין מחכמתו‏ חכמתו‏ מתקיימת‏ וכל‏ שאין ‏ שמעשיו מרובין מחכמתו אין  חכמתו‏ מתקיימת‏  שנאמר נעשה ונשמע

Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa said – anyone whose actions are greater than their wisdom their wisdom will endure and anyone whose actions are not greater than their wisdom their wisdom will not endure as the passuk says נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע
However, the possuk says in Shir haShirim (1:15): עֵינַיִךְ יוֹנִים - “you have dove’s eyes.” The Vilna Gaon explains that if someone has different size or shape eyes this is unsightly, however the ‘eyes’ of klal yisroel are identical as they observe נַעֲשֶׂה  and נִשְׁמָע to the same extent.
How can the Vilna Gaon say that naaseh and nishma are identical? We know from the Avos de’Rebbi Noson that naaseh is always greater than nishma?
Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner z”l explains as follows:
Klal yisroel were commanded various mitzvos before Har Sinai such as shabbos, korban pesach and rosh chodesh. Why was it necessary to have kabbalas hatorah at Har Sinai, we see that it was possible for us to receive mitzvos without matan torah?

The passuks says:
וַיֵּרֶד ה' עַל הַר סִינַי אֶל רֹאשׁ הָהָר

The medrash rabbah explains (parshas naso 13:2):
כיון שחטא אדם, נסתלקה השכינה לרקיע הראשון. חטא קין, נסתלקה לרקיע השני. חטאו דור אנוש, נסתלקה לרקיע השלישי. חטאו דור המבול, נסתלקה לרקיע הרביעי. חטאו דור הפלגה, נסתלקה לרקיע החמישי. חטאו הסדומיים, נסתלקה לרקיע הששי. חטאו המצריים, נסתלקה לרקיע השביעי.
וכנגדן עמדו שבעה צדיקים והורידו את השכינה, מן העליונים לתחתונים, ואלו הן: אברהם הורידה מן השביעי לששי. יצחק הורידה מן הששי לחמישי. יעקב הורידה מן החמישי לרביעי. לוי הורידה מן הרביעי לשלישי. קהת הורידה מן השלישי לשני. עמרם הורידה מן השני לראשון. משה הורידה מן העליונים לתחתונים.

“Once Adam haRishon sinned, the shechinah departed to the first rakia…when the mitzrim sinned the shechinah departed to the seventh rakia.
Corresponding to these there stood seven tzadikim who brought the shechinah from the shamayim to the earth. These are: Avrohom who brought it from the seventh to the sixth... Moshe brought the shechinah from the shamayim to the earth.”
Why is Moshe bringing the shechinah to olam hazeh synonymous with matan torah?
If a person walks into a room, it is appropriate to acknowledge their presence. Depending on who the person is, different degrees of respect have to be shown. If a king or a prime minister walk into a room, the honour that should be shown to them is far greater than the honour that has to be shown if someone’s aquaintance comes in.
At Har Sinai, Hashem’s shechinah came down to olam hazeh. The taryag mitzvos are the appropriate response to the presence of Hashem. Although Hashem also gave mitzvos to the benei noach prior to Har Sinai, the nature of these commandments were that they were exactly that – commandments. The nature of the Torah is fundamentally different, it is not simply commandments but is rather the correct way to acknowledge and honour the permanent presence of Hashem amongst klal yisroel. Subsequently, משה הורידה מן העליונים לתחתונים is synonymous with matan torah. The main purpose of matan torah was that klal yisroel should become a mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh. Ubaavur nasos eschem bo Elokim – Hashem came to elevate the benei yisroel. The mitzvos of matan torah were a result of klal yisroel’s entry into a bris with Hashem.

With regards to the wholesomeness of klal yisroel and their being part of the bris with Hashem, which is the loving relationship described in Shir HaShirim, awareness of Hashem’s presence -  shivisi Hashem lenegdi tamid and observing the mitzvos are always perfectly balanced. Observing mitzvos should not be done without an understanding of why they are being done and learning the Torah should result in a practical outcome.

However with regards to practical observance a person should always be greater in their deeds than in their chochmoh. The Gr”a is describing the bris between Hashem and klal yisroel which is comprised of the bris that klal yisroel enetered into when they said naaseh venishma, the Avos deRebbi Noson is describing the practical actions that are the external outcome of this bris.

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