Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yisro 5632 Third Ma'amar

In Tehillim, “... גִבֹּרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְבָרוֹ/… strong warriors who do His bidding, to hearken to the sound of His word.” It would seem that this pasuk is worded backwards. One needs to hearken to God’s word and understand what He requires of us in order to do His bidding. The pasuk says that the strong warriors do His bidding in order to hearken to his word. What does this mean?

We find the same construct when we accepted the Torah. Chazal praise the nation of Israel for saying, when offered the Torah, “... נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע/… We will do and we will listen.” Even before we knew what God required of us we committed to do. This requires an explanation, though. We certainly trusted in God and believed that He would not require us to do anything beyond our capabilities. We certainly knew that anything God would ask of us would be for our own benefit. Why the great praise, therefore, when we committed to comply with God’s commandments even before understanding them fully?

The Sfas Emes explains that while the simple meaning of listening to God’s word is understanding how to perform his commandments, it also implies something much deeper. God’s דִבּור/speech teaches us how to perform the commandments. However the קוֹל דְבָרוֹ/sound of his word implies a deeper understanding. We can relate to the speech of the words and we can related to the underlying sound of the speech. The underlying sound suggests the underlying spiritual meaning of the words. The Zohar makes this distinction between דִבּור/speech and קוֹל/sound as well when it refers to speech as components of sound [1] (i.e. sound is the כלל and speech is the פרט.)

At Mount Sinai we committed to comply with God’s commandments and we accepted the yoke of heaven upon us in order to merit hearing the sound of God’s voice within the commandments, as it were. By committing to perform the commandments we would merit understanding that would otherwise be impossible to attain. This is the reason we said, “נַעֲשֶה וְנִשְׁמָע /We will do and we will listen.” We committed to do in order to merit hearing (the underlying sound of God – understanding the inner meaning of the commandments.) This is also the reason the pasuk in Tehillim states first, “עֹשֵי דְבָרוֹ/do His bidding” and only afterwards, “לִשְמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְבָרוֹ/to hearken to the sound of His word.” By taking appropriate action the strong warriors would merit hearing the sound within His words; they would merit understanding the deeper meaning of their actions.

[1] For more detail on this Zohar and the relationship between קול/sound and דיבור/speech see the Sfas Emes on Shmos 5631 Second Ma’amar.

Also, for a fascinating discussion of this concept as it relates to the names of God, the Tetragrammaton and Adnus and the different sounds we are required to blow with the Shofar on Rosh HaShana see Ya’aros Devash Chelek 1 Derush 6.

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