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ב"ה

Aftertaste

Friday, 3 June, 2022 - 6:37 am

Some foods hit the spot right away. Others require some time to maximize their effect.

Good or bad, sometimes it’s the aftertaste that prevails.

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In a comment referencing the Giving of the Torah, celebrated this Sunday and Monday during Shavuot, the Talmud states (paraphrased):

At the Giving of the Torah, G-d overturned Mount Sinai upon the Children of Israel like an inverted cask, and said to them: "If you accept the Torah, fine; if not, here shall be your burial."

Rabbi Acha ben Yaakov observed: This resulted in a strong legal contest against the Torah (since it was a contract entered into under duress). Said Raba: But they re-accepted it (out of their own, uncompelled choice) in the days of Achashverosh (the Purim story), as it is written (Esther 9:27): "The Jews confirmed, and accepted" -- on that occasion they confirmed what they had accepted long before.

The Talmud quotes from the Torah’s language to prove its point.  Nonetheless, it still begs the question: The Jews explicitly agreed to G-d’s Torah as evidenced by their famous proclamation, “Naaseh v’nishma” – “(All that G-d said) we will do and we will hear.”  So why is the Talmud doubting their eagerness?

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Today, my son Dovid visited a Jewish fellow at his Eagle home. He was in middle of baking pizza, but was thrilled to see the young rabbinic students. And, he readily agreed to put on tefillin for the first time in his life.

Despite, his lack of overt Jewish connection throughout many recent years, he jumped at the opportunity. Despite the fact that his pizza was burning in the oven. He had other priorities.

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Chassidic thought teaches that the symbolism of the mountain represents a great heap of love.  In other words, G-d piled on so much love and affection toward the Israelites that they were compelled to accept His Torah.  If any of us were privy to such intense and intimate display of Divine revelation, we too would have no choice other than to accept anything we were told.  This doesn’t mean the Jews were dazzled into agreement; it simply means the elements that usually interfere with selfless devotion were overshadowed and melted away in face of G-d’s embrace.

It may be compared to the promises a child makes to her parents after receiving a fabulous gift.  Those promises are true, but they are inspired by the good feelings of the moment.  In fact, they are truer than the threats and angry feelings expressed in less glorious moments of tantrums and mischief.  They are automatic during the euphoria, but may dissipate in its absence.

When the child later lives up to her promise, she has displayed true ownership of those feelings. Previously they were imposed upon her. Now she has displayed that they come from within.

Similarly, the Talmud is teaching, the Jews were awfully enthusiastic about receiving the Torah.  But they didn’t earn that passion of their own accord.  Later, in a more difficult moment, they achieved true internalization.  In the times of Esther and Mordechai they embraced the Torah – despite the challenges.

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This, to me, is the power of the Jewish soul. 

It may seem like we behave Jewishly due to the fun rituals, the nostalgic traditions, or positive environment.  Sometimes antisemitism, guilt, or peer pressure emerge as apparent motivators.

But, a Jew laying tefillin 3334 years after Sinai “Just because I’m Jewish” – is the real deal.  

It tasted good at Sinai. But, it tastes even better now. A lot better than pizza.

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