Are freedom and commitment absolute opposites? How do I honor a decision in the face of changing emotions? These aren’t new questions. In Parsha Yitro, Shemot/ Exodus 18:1 – 20:23 the mixed multitude are hearing from the Most High again. Just as we encounter God in varying circumstances, the Israelites found a different landscape backdrop, a mountain instead of the sea. Painting of Yitro Parsha
Imagine riding the feelings of freedom and miraculous escape. How long before the daily grind, and squabbles began to eat away at what they remembered and the energy that fueled their journey? The rabbis tell that the people were under Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given, implying, or else be smashed to bits. Who builds trust upon threats and fear? Is it a threat or is it a reminder that you have seen, followed and come to know Me, now act like it or else. It doesn’t matter how you feel.
How could the people say what the Most High says I will do? (Shemot 19:8) They knew HaShem by His behavior and their experience. Why is the first mitzvot, or commandment not a commandment, but a foundational statement?
Shemot 20:2 I am HaShem thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Out of our knowing and experience came the relationship and our commitment to it. Without knowing the Most High it is an ethical treatise or practical philosophy to be practiced, but not a covenant to be entered into by both parties.
Why is a covenant important? It is a vow between parties saying this is the agreement and may it be to me as to the animal slaughtered and shared as a meal if I break oath with you. It is a promise with a consequence, not a threat. There is freedom in knowing boundaries and having a plumb line to check our decisions and actions. Plumb line checking the vertical This commitment or covenant means no longer are decisions made in isolation and without absolutes with all things being relative.
If I don’t eat or drink I die. In friendship, marriage and life with HaShem if I don’t support them, feed them, value them in my behaviors, they will die. A drifting away, or a breaking off removes sustenance, and the life withers away from the union whether with a spouse or the Most High. There are natural consequences for both keeping and breaking Torah. Just to be clear, Torah does not justify remaining in a marriage when there is adultery, or domestic violence. Someone has already fallen from the path at that juncture. There are difficult and positive choices to be made at that point.
Often we have contracts which can be broken legally, rather than binding oaths. In courthouses before testimony, oaths are still taken to before giving testimony. A vow or oath is not lightly spoken, nor revoked. What does it mean to be a Daughter of Torah vowing to observe, keep and uphold the mitzvot or commandments? Learning and observing mitzvot with intent (kavannah) to mature in devekut (cleaving to the Most High) acting upon our faith and belief (emunah) with trust (bitachon) through the ups and downs of life / Derech Chaim (Way of Life).
“Cleaving” is used in two relationships in scripture, the marriage relationship and our relationship with HaShem. Marriage is meant to teach us this lofty ideal. May each of us learn to cleave, to cling to and become one with the Most High. Commitment in relationship brings freedom, knowing the boundaries as the Israelites learned them when Moshe taught them (Shemot 19:23) where and how they could approach HaShem. We can choose to keep the commitment of doing what was heard, keeping the mitzvot, praying, and cleaving to the Most High.
שמע ישראל ה’ אלוהינו ה’ אחד
"Hear O Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One"
"Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai"
Tags: boundaries, covenant, emotions, exodus, foundational statement, israelites, landscape backdrop, mitzvot, mt sinai, multitude, nbsp, plumb line, practical philosophy, rabbis, reminder, squabbles, Torah, treatise, vow, yitro
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