Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Athiests Included, נעשה ונשמה Na'aseh v'Nishma, We Will Do and We Will Listen

נעשה ונשמה Na'aseh v'Nishma, We Will Do and We Will Listen was the Jewish People's response to hearing G-d at Mount Sinai.  The gut reaction of the Jewish People was very simple.  There were no debates, no negotiations, no philosophic rationalizations, no if, ands, buts or maybes.

There was none of today's "ham and shrimps are forbidden to Orthodox Jews."  All Jews, no matter what their personal belief and "life style" accepted G-d's Commandments.

Just as I was checking my email tonight I saw the Tablet Magazine headlines  which includes:
An Atheist for Religion
In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton urges nonbelievers to pick and choose religions’ best offerings
And I thought of our all Jewish souls, even those not yet born, being at Mount Sinai meant that even the atheists among us called out:

נעשה ונשמה Na'aseh v'Nishma, We Will Do and We Will Listen
Yes, that means that the non-believers among us, aka the atheists were there, too.  We all promised, pledged to obey G-d on that original Shavuot, which is usually translated as "weeks," although the letters spelled the same way also mean "oaths."  The Holiday of Shavuot is the culmination of the seven week count up from the beginning of Passover until the end of seven (also spelled with the same Hebrew root שבע shevva) weeks which is the Eve of Shavuot. 

We did not promise to always believe and understand all that G-d wants from us.  We had just pledged to obey G-d's Commandments, no questions asked.

I have no doubt that not all of the Jewish people who escaped together from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt were strong believers in G-d.  Actually, the more I study the less they seem to have had been of strong faith in G-d.  Think of all their complaints just a short time after leaving Egypt and experiencing so many miracles.  They missed the food and the security and lack of responsibility. There are advantages to slavery.  You may not get much pay, but the food and housing are free. 

We've been discussing that issue, the difficulties and burdens of freedom in the Matan class I've been taking,  Change of Course and Course of Change: Sefer B´Midbar taught by Atara Snowbell.

In a sense we must sympathize with the former slaves.  They really weren't prepared for their new lives.  Maybe some of them thought that if they promised G-d they'd obey, He would give them on tap food, like they remembered getting in Egypt.  Yes, no doubt in my mind that there were atheists among them.


Eli Skoczylas said...

Funny you mention on tap food, because the former slaves had already been given just that — free on tap food, in the form of manna falling down from the sky....

Batya said...

Eli, the actual verses describe a complicated preparation process. Almost but not quite like turning soy into tofu. The midrash makes it look easy. Bamidbar (Numbers)11- ז וְהַמָּן, כִּזְרַע-גַּד הוּא; וְעֵינוֹ, כְּעֵין הַבְּדֹלַח. 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and the appearance thereof as the appearance of bdellium.
ח שָׁטוּ הָעָם וְלָקְטוּ וְטָחֲנוּ בָרֵחַיִם, אוֹ דָכוּ בַּמְּדֹכָה, וּבִשְּׁלוּ בַּפָּרוּר, וְעָשׂוּ אֹתוֹ עֻגוֹת; וְהָיָה טַעְמוֹ, כְּטַעַם לְשַׁד הַשָּׁמֶן. 8 The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in mortars, and seethed it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was as the taste of a cake baked with oil.

NormanF said...

Freedom is a state of mind. Not all the Jews left Egypt. Some Jews stayed behind in Babylon. Today some Jews reject Eretz Israel and the message of Shauvot. He who does not fear G-d will never be truly free. Such a person as the HaRav famously wrote, may outwardly have status, prestige etc., but inside where it truly counts that person remains a slave.

Its worth remembering the entire Jewish nation has still not been liberated. Not from Egypt but from the way they go through life. Until that changes, the freedom of the Jewish people will remain an incomplete one.

cgrodner said...

Ah! The food issue! Mahn, what was it? We will all find out as soon as we open the jar in the Aron - May it be very soon!
Good article Batya.
Atheists are believers, they just believe in themselves - foolishly!

Batya said...

Norman, the slavery was in the mind/heart. We were slaves to Pharoah, location less important. And sadly nothing much has changed with the majority of Jews.

Chaya, G-d willing we'll soon be inventing recipes. Yes, atheists are trying to reinvent the spiritual wheel...

Akiva said...

My wife, Raquel, and I enjoyed manna from heaven in Shilo this March, at the felafel stand next to the town square. Thank you, our brothers and sisters who have taken a brave stand for the rest of us. Shilo is in good hands and we love and appreciate you all. Akiva Kalev ben Avraham, Oakland, California

Batya said...

Akiva, thanks, I'm glad to hear that.