Parshat Yitro

This week’s Parasha is Parashat Yitro 📖

In this week’s parsha, we officially became a nation and given the Torah! Hashem held the mountain over the heads of millions of people. Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael, that if they accept the Torah, great! If not, he will turn the gathering into a mass grave. Did that leave us any choice? If we want to stay alive, then of course we have to say yes.

Why is Hashem doing this? Didn’t we, as a collective, already say “na’aseh v’nishma”? Weren’t we already “all in” and committed, even though we didn’t know what we were accepting? Why did Hashem need to suspend the mountain over us?

Rashba says that when the Jewish people said na’aseh v’nishma, we were only talking about the written Torah. Everything else is the oral Torah, and that is what we had to accept. The oral Torah is just as important! Hashem was showing us the reality that we could not just take the Torah Shebichtav, and we need the tools of the oral Torah to interpret and it gives us the correct way to live our lives!

When we agreed to receive the Torah, we agreed to accept the written laws, we didn’t agree to the oral part of it. But the oral law is in some way the heart of our Torah. How to wake up, to interact with other people, make shabbat etc, the Torah Sheba’al Peh. Hashem understood us and knew we needed to be coerced. We couldn’t turn around and back out and say we’d bitten off more than we could chew, even though we may have been afraid.

The Ben Ish Hai asks a question. Why does the Midrash describe the mountain being held like an upside down vessel? Because, without the Oral Torah, the upside down vessel is empty. We cannot follow Halacha at all. We need the details. So the Ben Ish Hai says: without the oral Torah, there’s nothing we can do with the written Torah. You cannot just “hear and do” without knowing what needs to be done!

We need to take this empty vessel, turn it on its head, and use it the way it the way it’s creator intended.

To accept the Torah, we need to accept it in its entirety, oral and written, as one complete vessel.

✨ *Shabbat Shalom* ✨