D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
12-Step Torah Parashat Yitro 5781
Bring the body and the mind will follow
We all experience moments in our lives when we feel stuck and not quite sure how to move forward. Maybe we have made a major decision to for instance, get a dog. Despite feeling unsure about whether this is a good idea, we move forward anyway and take the necessary steps toward achieving this goal. We search animal shelter websites, get advice from friends, fill out an adoption application when we find the dog we want; and prepare our home for the arrival of our very own adorable pooch. By taking the steps needed to bring a dog into our home, we temper the anxiety we might feel about making such a major change in our lives.
In this week’s Torah portion Yitro, the Israelites now free from slavery, have been wandering in the desert for three months. They now arrive at Mt. Sinai where they encamp, while Moses ascends the mountain to meet with God. When Moses arrives at his destination, God coaches him about what he should tell the Israelites. Make sure God says, to remind them of what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore the Israelites on eagle’s wings (Ex. 19:4). God tells Moses to also remind the Israelites that if they keep God’s covenant they will be to God: מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּֽהֲנִ֖ים וְג֣וֹי קָד֑וֹשׁ, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6)
When he comes down from Mt. Sinai Moses calls the elders together and reveals all that God had said to him. When he finishes the elders call out: All that God has spoken we will do and more specifically in next week’s portion the people say, נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע--Na’aseh v’nishma-- we will do and we will hear/understand.” (Ex. 24:7) While it may be more typical to listen to what someone tells you to do and then act on what you are told, the Israelites act on their promise to keep the Torah before they even understand what they are doing. Because of this, they temper the anxiety they might feel about making such a major change in their lives.
In the next few weeks I will hopefully be given a chance to open my home to a shelter dog. While I may feel a little anxious about this undertaking I have as an example, the Israelites’ faith in God and their willingness to נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע--Na’aseh v’nishma, to do and then to understand. In other words, if I bring my body my mind will follow.
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