Mishpatim – Sh’vi’i

Na'aseh v'Nishma

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

If the Jews obey G-d’s will in the land, then women will bear healthy children and people will live full lives. The Canaanite nations will fear G-d and He will send hornets to drive them out. He will take His time doing so, however, because if they all left at once, wild animals would overpopulate. G-d will drive the Canaanites out gradually, enabling the Jews to move in and fill the land, from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

The Jews were not to make treaties with the Canaanite nations. To do so will lead to idolatry.

To seal the deal, Moshe was to approach the mountain with Aharon, Nadav and Avihu (two of Aharon’s sons) and 70 elders. Moshe was then to ascend alone.

Moshe told the people all the laws G-d had communicated through him. The people responded that they accepted, unconditionally. Moshe wrote down what G-d had said, namely the Torah until this point. The next morning, he built an altar and the first-borns, who served as priests at this time, offered sacrifices.

Moshe read to the people from the Torah as had been written down so far. They replied with one of the most famous phrases in the Torah, “na’aseh v’nishma,” “we will do and we will hear.” This means that they agreed to do all G-d had said, after which they would study in an effort to understand the mitzvos. (Understanding a mitzva is not a prerequisite. If anything, one can best come to understand mitzvos by doing them!)

Moshe and the other designated parties approached the mountain. They saw a vision of G-d’s glory and under his anthropomorphic “feet” there was something like a sapphire slab, as clear as the sky. (I’m not even going to try to explain that one. Let’s just cross-reference it with the first chapter of Ezekiel and leave it at that.) Despite the vision, the others did not reach Moshe’s spiritual level, so they celebrated the event with a feast. (This is as opposed to Moshe, who was able to go 40 days and nights without food and drink on Mt. Sinai, as we shall see in parshas Ki Sisa.)

G-d beckoned Moshe up the mountain, so he could receive the Tablets (luchos) with the Law on them. Moshe delegated Aharon and Chur as leaders in his absence.

Moshe reached the mountain’s peak and discovered the cloud of G-d’s glory covering it. Moshe dwelled in the cloud for six days and, on the seventh, G-d called to him from the cloud. (To the people below, the cloud looked like fire.) Moshe would remain on the mountain for 40 days.

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