Bamidbar -- Shavuos 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 30

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2, Part 20

Shavuos -- Internal Battles, Coercion and Commitment


This issue is dedicated in honor of the Golden Anniversary of Dr. and Mrs. Sheldon Bernstein, by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Bernstein


Although not mentioned in the verses, Shavuos is a special commemoration. By tradition, the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the birth and death of Dovid Hamelech (King David) occurred at this time.

1.Coercion -- the Internal Struggle

The Talmud and Medrashim relate that, even though the Jews had willingly accepted Torah, the Torah was nonetheless given by force. "He turned the mountain over their heads and said: `If you accept the Torah - fine; if not -- here you will be buried...' " (Shabbos 88a) One of the many ramifications of this notion is the following: The Talmud tells us that it is greater to be commanded to do something, than to do it voluntarily. The reason, Tosafos explains, is that there is a greater challenge -- internal struggle -- when a person is ordered to act, than if he simply decides to do so on his own accord. After the receiving of the Torah, this becomes one of the fundamental differences between the Jewish People and the forefathers. The forefathers were not obligated to keep the Jewish practices, which had not yet become law. Because the Jewish People cope with a greater challenge, they receive greater reward than the forefathers for preserving the Torah. (See Yismach Moshe)


Rav Yerucham Lebovitz explained the meaning of the celebration of the Receiving of the Torah: Everything depends upon the commitment. It is not enough just to act; if we commit ourselves before we act, our deeds will be much more powerful, for they will project our commitments, our faithfulness in fulfilling our commitments.

The commitment itself is a major undertaking. Even if accomplishing the goal seems very distant -- the making of the commitment is already considered as if the goal has been accomplished! (See Daas Torah, Bamidbar)

This makes our words last week more palatable. We had discussed how each person is responsible to know the entire Torah; to most people, this seems overwhelming. However, if the commitment alone is tantamount to accomplishing our goal, such a difficult responsibility becomes more operative.

3. Rescripting

It is interesting that Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, shows how people are affected by assumptions about themselves and their lives. Through "rescripting," "paradigm-shifting," a person can change his assumptions and attitudes. Covey suggests that each person compose a "mission statement" that verbally projects his objectives. Through preparation and revised commitment, success comes within one's grasp...

4. Preparation

At the Purim story, the Jews accepted the Torah, completely, willingly and lovingly, for the first time. This truly completed the reception of the Torah. (Shabbos 88a) Rav Lebovitz asked, what was so special about the generation of Mordechai, that only in their time was the reception of the Torah complete?

Preparation is essential to performance. The successful reception of the generation was not due to the greatness of the generation, but due to the fact that they had had more time. The generation of the desert were rushed, hurried. The Exodus happened spontaneously; the fifty days of preparation for Mount Sinai was not satisfactory. So often, our preparation determines the results of our endeavors; Mordechai's generation was prepared. (See Daas Torah, Bamidbar)

Ramban, in the beginning of his commentary to the Torah, discusses how the entire universe began as one tiny point. (Scientists identify this idea with the Big Bang theory.) Rav Lebovitz shows how this statement of Ramban connects with the human psyche. Just as all the matter in the universe first appeared as a point, before taking definite, orderly shape, so too, human endeavor should initiate with carefully identified reasoning. Insuing events will naturally take shape, following such preparation.

5. Dovid and the Internal Battle

In Divre Hayamim (Chronicles 1:22:5), the story is related that Dovid Hamelech (King David) had sought to construct the Beis Hamikdash (Temple), but was denied permission. Dovid was a man of war, while Shlomo (King Solomon) was a man of peace. Only during a reign of peace, would the Beis Hamikdash be built. The true battle is an internal one. Dovid was a warrior, as everyone knows. The war he fought, though, was primarily internal. In this way, the entire story of Dovid Hamelech fits into perspective. Dovid's story is one of ups and downs; few characters of Tanach experience as much hardship and tribulation as Dovid. The only one that comes to mind is Eyuv (Job). However, while Eyuv complains, Dovid sings. The Book of T'hilim (Psalms), Dovid's immortal work, became central to the prayers of Judaism (as well as religious movements of the nations). Whether "up" or "down," Dovid continued to pray, to sing praises to the One in Control.

There is no blame indicated in the verses in Divre Hayamim (Chronicles). There is only Dovid's realization of differing roles. The war must precede peace. Dovid fights the battles -- the internal battles. Only after the victory -- the internal victory -- can peace appear. (Tzidkas Hatzadik, see Commentary to Book of Job by Rav Moshe Eisemann; Ima shel Malchus (Mother of Royalty), by Rav Yehudah Bachrach)

Private victories precede public victories. (Covey)


Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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