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Achieving Unity in Mind, Heart and Deed

We read in the Torah portion Yisro that “In the third month after the Exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, on that day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai… and Israel encamped there before the mountain.”1

The Mechilta comments:2 “Everywhere else it is written ‘They traveled… they encamped’ [in the plural]. That is to say ‘they traveled’ with dissenting opinions and ‘they encamped’ with dissenting opinions. Here, however, [it is written] ‘and Israel encamped,’ [in the singular, for] all were equally of one heart.”

The Mechilta thus informs us that although it is entirely natural for the members of a multitude to have dissenting opinions, when the Jews encamped in preparation to receive the Torah, all were “of one heart.”

This was a result of the Torah’s ability to bring complete peace and unity, as the Rambam states:3 “The entire Torah was given in order to bring peace into the world.” Therefore the Jews’ encampment before Mt. Sinai brought complete unity; they stopped bickering.

What property does Torah possess that enables it to bring about such peace and unity that all are “of one heart”? In fact, the argument could be made that Torah fosters dissonance, for it is replete with dissenting and disparate opinions with regard to various points of Jewish law, etc.

And while it is true that once a definitive judgment is rendered all parties must act strictly in accordance with the halacha , it would seem that private intellectual disagreement must remain.

How then can Torah be said to cause all Jews to be “of one heart ,” which implies that it unites Jews not only in action but also in understanding and feeling?

The Torah stresses that the Jewish people’s encampment “with one heart” took place during “the third month after the Exodus.” Evidently the people’s unity resulted not only from their location “opposite the mount,” but also from the fact that this took place during the third month.

What is so special about three, and how does it foster unity; if anything, unity seems more directly related to the number one.

The difference between the numbers one, two and three are as follows: “One” stresses that from the very outset there exists but one thing; “two” is indicative of divisiveness — the antitheses of unity. “Three,” however, sees a uniting of disparate entities — making “one” out of “two.”

This aspect of “three” is similar to the statement of our Sages4 that “When two Biblical passages contradict each other, the meaning can be determined by a third Biblical text, which reconciles them.”

We see here the remarkable quality of the “third.” Without the third verse the two verses indeed contradict each other. Then the third reconciles the seemingly irreconcilable. Moreover, it does so not by “taking sides,” i.e., agreeing with one verse and disagreeing with the other, but by showing that the first two verses are actually in consonance.

Since Torah is inextricably bound up with the concept of “three,” as our Sages state:5 “Blessed is G-d who gave the three-part Torah to the three-part Nation… in the third month,” it is understandable that Torah as a whole has characteristics similar to those of the number three.

This results in the fact that even when Torah law is seemingly arrived at not through a reconciling view, but by agreeing with one opinion and disagreeing with another, those initially opposed agree not only with the adjudication but also with the logic that resulted in the verdict — all are peacefully united “with one heart.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXI, pp. 108-112.



Obligation and Subservience

The Ten Commandments begin with the verse,6 “I am G-d your L-rd who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the place of slavery.” In commenting on the words, “who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” Rashi notes:7 “Taking you out of Egypt is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me.”

What difficulty does Rashi seek to resolve with his remark?

Some commentators8 on Rashi explain that the difficulty lies in the verse’s stating “I am G-d your L-rd who brought you out of the land of Egypt” rather than “I am G-d your L-rd who created heaven and earth.” Rashi thus explains, they say, that the Exodus was mentioned rather than creation since it was because G-d brought the Jews out of slavery that they became His servants and He became their G-d.

This explanation, however, is somewhat lacking: In the simple context of the verse there is absolutely no reason why it should conclude with the statement “who created heaven and earth,” inasmuch as the latter part of the verse gives the reason for G-d becoming “your L-rd” — the G-d of the Jewish people.

This being so, it stands to reason that the explanation should be germane to the relationship between G-d and the Jews rather than to that between G-d and the universe.

And so the explanation of why the Exodus is given as the reason for G-d becoming the G-d of the Jewish people is obvious — G-d’s liberation of the Jews from slavery is what made it possible for Him to give us His Torah and mitzvos on Sinai.

Moreover, the fact that G-d took the Jews out of Egypt in order for them to serve Him was already mentioned several times in the Torah;9 in none of those places did Rashi find it necessary to explain that this “is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me.” What difficulty is there in this particular verse?

The difficulty which Rashi addresses is related to this very issue: Since the Jews were already well aware that the ultimate goal of the Exodus was the receipt of the Torah and submission to G-d, what was the need to mention yet again that G-d’s declaration: “I am G-d your L-rd” is the consequence of His being the One “who brought you out of the land of Egypt”?

Rashi therefore explains that “who brought you out of the land of Egypt” is neither a reason nor an explanation for “I am G-d your L-rd.,” Rather, it is a wholly distinct matter — “Taking you out of Egypt is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me.”

“I am G-d your L-rd” implies the acceptance of G-d’s reign.10 The Jews accepted G-d as their king and ruler, and thereby obligated themselves to obey all His commands. G-d then added an additional matter — merely accepting G-d as king does not suffice; Jews must be wholly subservient to Him.

Accepting a king’s dominion does not preclude the possibility of a private life; it only means doing what the king commands and avoiding those things which the king prohibits. However, being “subservient to Me” means a Jew has no personal freedom; all his actions and possessions are subservient to G-d.

Performing Torah and mitzvos is unlike heeding the commands of a flesh-and-blood king, since it is done in a state of complete subservience. Every moment of a Jew’s life involves some aspect of Torah and mitzvos.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXVI pp. 124-128.

 

FOOTNOTES
1. Shmos 19:1-2.
2. Ibid.
3. Conclusion of Hilchos Chanukah , quoting Sifrei, Naso 6:26. See also Likkutei Sichos XVIII , p. 349ff.
4. Sifra , Introduction.
5. Shabbos 88a; Tanchuma , Shmos 10.
6. Shmos 20:2.
7. Ibid.
8. See Gur Aryei and Devek Tov ibid.
9. Shmos 3:12, 6:6-7, 19:4-6.
10. See Mechiltah , Shmos 20:3; Rashi, Vayikra 18:2; Ramban , Shmos 20:2.

 

 


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