This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, does challenge us to contemplate: What are our basic instincts as Jews?
Moses presents the Torah to the Jewish people who famously respond with the words “ naseh v’nishma,” “we will do, then we will listen.” Seemingly we are pledging that we first accept the Torah unconditionally, no matter what may be written within. After making that commitment we are ready to hear the Torah’s content. A quite noble statement, but is that what the words really mean?
Taking the words literally, how exactly is it possible to do anything before first knowing what to do? Before beginning any task, we have to at least know what the task is. If not where would we start? This is really what our words as a people are: “We will do, then, we will listen.” We seem positioned ready to act. How, if we don’t know yet what to do?
Let’s examine basic, natural human instincts. When a person feels hunger, thirst, or really any desire, does the person first think “I need to eat” then begin a thought process of what to eat, when to eat, do I need hot sauce? What really happens is that, first, we instinctively feel hungry or thirsty. Only then does our thought process begin for “how will I fulfill my need?” The actual hunger pang is a natural instinctual occurrence by which our bodies tell us it is time to eat. We see that the process of eating really begins well before we intellectually think about the fact that we are hungry.
Upon receiving the Torah, we as Jews not only committed to unconditionally accept its priceless lessons, but we pledged to weave the Torah into the very fabric of our being. Living by the Torah’s word became a very basic instinct of the Jewish people.
Just as we feel a pang of hunger or a sudden thirst, if we listen closely, we can also hear the calling of our souls telling us that our spiritual needs cannot be forgotten.
Something to ponder. Shabbat Shalom!