SHAVUOT: ” NA’ASSE V’NISHMA”
COMMITMENT COMES FIRST!
By Sherrie B. Miller
Shavuot is the anniversary of the Jewish people’s “marriage” to the Almighty; it
commemorates Bnei Yisrael’s acceptance of the Torah with the words: “Na’asse V’nishma”,
we commit to do and then we will listen and attempt to understand what is expected
Oddly enough, no specific date for the holiday of Shavuot is given in the Torah,
unlike other festivals such as Pesach and Sukkot. Chazal convey an enormous teaching
by explaining this surprising omission: it would have been insufficient and untenable
for our ancestors of the generation of “matan torah” to obligate us in this holy
relationship with Hashem; we must each, individually, as well as collectively, commit
and re-commit ourselves annually on Shavuot, to be actively engaged in obeying the
Will of Hashem. Commitment is the most essential ingredient in a viable relationship.
This commitment transcends even the intellect, the most distinguishing feature of
man, and catapults us to a higher level, our ideal self, that is intuitive and in
total synchronization with Hashem.
Ruth demonstrates this point compellingly and cogently by her total devotion to
Naomi, while forsaking all the worldly pleasures of this world. Renouncing her privileged
status of Princess of Moab, to commit to the care of the elderly and destitute Naomi,
goes counter to our perceived sense of rationality and intellectual calculations
of benefits vs. costs. This “ratzon elyon”, highest level of Will to commit herself
to Naomi, led Ruth to a relationship with the Almighty, that not only afforded her
the privilege of receiving the Holy Torah, but made her worthy of having the Kingdom
of the House of David come from her.
Our commitment to a relationship with G-d is a profound paradigm for the relationship
between husband and wife. The commitment must be eternal, constant, and absolute.
We must honor this commitment at all times, regardless of whether we feel “in the
mood”, or whether we understand our spouse’s behavior at this particular moment
In our world of instability and change, we may be faced with difficult situations
that conceal and obscure the initial excitement of “love.” Where there is total
commitment from the onset, compromise and communication can, and will follow. When
commitment is lacking and the Western values of immediate gratification, the comfort
of “disposable dishes”, and need of “pain-free living” emerge, the relationship
will dissolve. We ought to take the remarkable Torah lesson of Yitzchak and Rivka’s
marriage as a shining example of the preferred sequence of events in Jewish tradition.
In Bereishit 24:67 the Torah states: “he married Rebecca, she became his wife and
he loved her.” First came the commitment and over time the love followed. “Ahava”,
(from the Aramaic “hav”, to give) is a verb; love is an outgrowth of investing my
self unconditionally in my spouse over time. This commitment and desire to act unconditionally
is what gives strength and stability to a relationship through “thick and thin!”
Rav Soloveitchik ztl, so eloquently asserts: “Judaism is first a discipline and
second a romance…To confine the essence of marriage to love would be tantamount
to building a magnificent edifice upon quicksand. First, it is impossible to determine
the genuineness and the depth of the love feeling. Many times the latter expresses
merely a surface transient emotion, which is due to physical attraction. Second,
no one can predict how long love will endure. The permanency of emotion, no matter
how sincere and truthful, is always doubtful. Third, love can be given to many.
It is not necessarily limited to one person. That is why Halakhah used as its base
of operation, not the subjective feeling of marital love, but the objective awareness
of marital commitment. The latter expresses itself in the reaching of a covenantal
arrangement between two individuals who, desirous of forming a community, commit
themselves to each other.”
This commitment will see a couple through the inevitable “ups and downs” of marriage
experienced even by those who were sure that they’d “live happily ever after.” No
one escapes these inherent life struggles, for Hashem orchestrates them as vehicles
for our ultimate growth and development.
Let us be mindful this Shavuot of the Heavenly inquiry: “who desires to receive
the Torah?” by responding with a resounding and positive reply: “Na’asse V’Nishma;”
We are committed to do Your Will at all costs! Then, we will attempt to understand.
May Hashem bless us with a year filled with increased spirituality, growth, and
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on SawYouAtSinai
and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala
in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified
by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital
couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.