Thursday, February 7, 2013
While the chapters of the Torah that comprise Mishpatim contain many laws – and the portion’s name even means “laws” - the Israelites were not afraid to commit to them, even before knowing specifically what the laws were and how this decision would impact their lives. They said, “Na’aseh v’nishma,” “We will do -- and THEN, we will understand.”
The commentators differed on how to interpret this verse. Rashi interprets the word “nishma” to mean not “to understand” but rather, “to obey.” In his view, the Israelites pledged what amounts to blind obedience to God in accepting the commandments sight unseen. Rava in the Talmud sees this not as an example of blind obedience, but rather of a deep trust in God.
If the word “nishma” means understand, the verse is telling us that only after you perform a mitzvah can you begin to understand its true meaning. I could get into these other commentaries in great depth, but I’ve learned from the rabbi how important it is to not ramble.
Reb Nachman of Bratzlav said that for the Jew it is not enough to simply accept the commandments – that was the “na’aseh” part. By also saying “nishma,” we are demonstrating a willingness to go above and beyond them, to continue to grow every moment of every day.
I find it so fitting then, that “na’aseh v’nishma” is found in none other than chapter 24, verse 7 of Exodus. To be a Jew who just says “Na’aseh,” “I will do,” is to be a Jew only when it is absolutely necessary. But to be a Jew who says, “Na’aseh v’Nishma,” is to be a Jew 24/7. And to be a Jew 24/7 means to go above and beyond the call in everything that we do.
So what does it mean to live a 24/7 life? Here are some examples:
Na’aseh – do the assignment exactly as it is assigned.
Nishma – to do the extra credit question.
Na’aseh – to walk to dog.
Nishma – to clean up after him.
Na’seh - to come to services on Shabbat
Nishma – to like it J
Na’aseh – to cook a meal for the poor
Nishma – to go to the homeless shelter to serve it.
Na’aseh – to support
Nishma – to GO to Israel
As the flakes fall outside and we sit back by the fire, maybe this weekend would be the perfect time to step back and ask how we might take a mitzvah and go just a little above and beyond the call – that’s what it takes to be a Jew 24/7.