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    Doing & hearing – Mishpatim

    There was a constitutional convention after the events at Mount Sinai. Offering the people a charter for national living, Moses gave them the right to cast a vote.

    He ran a risk. They could have said they preferred to be told what to do, without having to think for themselves. They could have said, “All laws are bothersome. We prefer to be unfettered, doing what is right in our own eyes”.

    What in fact they did was to vote, and to accept the “yes” case: “All that HaShem has spoken we shall do and hear” – na’aseh v’nishma.

    But why did they use two verbs when one would have been enough? If they said “do”, why did they add “hear”? If they said “hear”, what need was there for “do”?

    There are many possible answers, but one might add to them an interpretation suggested by the word “hear” in the Shema. There it is Shema Yisrael – “Hear, O Israel”. Here it is nishma – “we shall hear”.

    On the Shema the sages say, “Hear – in whatever language you are able to hear”, and from this statement derives the rule that one can say the Shema in any language and not necessarily in Hebrew.

    In our verse, the Israelites may be understood as saying, “We shall hear God’s word and call whatever tongue we speak, wherever we are, in whatever context we find ourselves. We will not pretend that because of lack of Hebrew, or because we are in an unconventional situation, we can appear to be deaf to the Divine will”.

    Hence, a Jew must not say, “In the synagogue I can hear God’s word distinctly, but in the world outside I pretend to be deaf”.

    Nor must one say, “If I am a rabbi I will naturally want to know what God says, but as an ordinary member of the public I don’t need God coming on too heavy and telling me what I should be doing with my life”.

    “I will do and I will hear” means that in all situations my ear will listen and my hand will respond.

    The K’dushah asks, Ayyeh M’kom K’vodo – “Where is the place of His glory?” The Chassidim reply, “God’s glory is wherever man lets Him in”.

    Hearing His word means that wherever we are, there we let Him in.

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