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This week’s dvar Torah is built upon a shmuz Rav Moshe Chait zt”l, the venerable Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim Yerushalayim, gave over 20 years ago.
Parshas Yisro is one of the most important Torah portions because it discusses kabbalas haTorah, the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people. The reason why it is so important is because it is one of the foundations of the Jewish people and one of the bases for the future of the Jews.
Chaza”l refer to this event as ma’amad Har Sinai, literally, standing at Mount Sinai. Just standing there was inspirational as we say in Dayeinu in the Haggada on Pesach, “If He had brought us to Mount Sinai and had not given us the Torah it would have been for us sufficient (dayeinu).” Just the fire and the voices heard and seen at Mount Sinai could inspire a person to come close to Hashem.
Everyone was at ma’amad Har Sinai! Everyone heard even future generations!
Why did Hashem begin the Ten Commandments in singular form, I am Hashem your (singular) G-D? In fact the Pesiksa DiRabasi of Rav Kahana (21:14) says there might be a possible defense or excuse for why part of the Jewish people succumbed to the sin of the golden calf, for Hashem said in singular form “I am Hashem your G-D” and perhaps He was only speaking to Moshe, therefore from then after Hashem said “I am Hashem your (plural) G-D,” (as He said in the last pasuk of the paragraph about tzitzis that we say in our shema every day); to be sure everyone felt they were warned. Since Hashem was speaking to the entire Jewish people at Har Sinai, why then was the Torah given in singular form?
To teach us that every single Jew must say Hashem gave the Ten Commandments to me, and I must preserve them. One should not say the Torah was given for everyone else. Hashem had to speak to the Jewish people who were at a level of prophesy to convey the message that Hashem expects me to observe the Torah, and if it is not observed by me then there is no Torah.
One could say, I believe there is a Jewish Nation and a Torah but who needs it. Man’s inclination says he wants someone else to observe the Torah; he doesn’t want responsibility. That attitude will cause destruction to himself and the Torah. It will cause a negative effect to all of creation.
The Pesiksa Rabasi of Rav Kahana (21:6) describes kabbalas haTorah with a parable to a realistic painting of a face; the eyes seem to be looking at you whichever corner of the room you are at. The eyes are looking at every single individual in that room at one time. So too, kaviyachol, Hashem had to speak to every single person at Har Sinai personally “looking at them straight in the eye” to impress upon them the need to observe the Torah. The point is that you must obligate yourself; don’t think it is not for me. The acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai is virtually meaningless if not thought of in these terms. A person could understand, review, and even do mussar bihispa’alus, getting an emotional charge or inspiration, connecting the brain with the heart on this subject, but still not think it is for me.
Gadlus Ha’adam, the greatness of man is inherent in every person. Hashem placed His Righteousness in man but gave man free choice to make calculations of how to feel and act. If a person does not make the right calculations, then only he will cause his own demise.