By: Rav David Zahtz
The Talmud teaches us in Mesechet Avoda Zara that prior to Hashem giving the Jewish people the Torah, He first went from nation to nation to offer each and every one of them the opportunity to accept the Torah. The Sifri, elaborates on the details of the storyline describing the conversation that was had between the nations and Hashem.
כשנגלה המקום תורה לישראל לא על ישראל בלבד הוא נגלה אלא על כל האומות. בתחילה הלך אצל בני עשו ואמר להם מקבלים אתם את התורה? אמרו לו מה כתוב בו? אמר להם לא תרצח אמרו לפניו רבש"ע כל עצמו של אביהם רוצח הוא…הלך לו אצל בני עמון ומואב… אמרו לו מה כתוב בו? אמר להם לא תנאף. אמרו לו רבש"ע כל עצמה של ערוה שלהם היא…כשבא אל ישראל מימינו אש דת למו פתחו כולם ואמרו כל אשר דבר השם נעשה ונשמע.
The Sifri seems to try and suggest a certain democratic approach by Hashem regarding the giving of the Torah, one that presents the argument that everyone had a chance to accept the Torah but refused aside from the Jewish people who agreed. Unfortunately, it seems insufficient! As much as Hashem is genuinely offering the Torah to the other nations, at the same time he challenges them with the law that they would have the hardest time accepting! And conversely, when it comes to the Jewish people, no law is stated at all! That doesn’t seem fair?!
One suggestion could be that Hashem is responding to the statement and question of the people. Each nation responded by asking what is written in the Torah. In other words they are looking to be challenged, and they want to understand what will be demanded of them. To that Hashem specifically responds with the most difficult challenge per nation accordingly. In contrast, the Jewish people responded with an affirmative acceptance to whatever is written in the Torah.
Another suggestion might be that the Jews as well were tested with their ultimate challenge at Har Sinai. In preparation for Kabalat HaTorah at Har Sinai, Hashem commands Moshe to tell the Jewish people to keep their distance from the mountain. In chapters 19 and 20 the Torah stresses the need to ensure that the Jewish people stay away from the mountain to ensure that no one comes close. Why is this so important? Even a person who simply touches Har Sinai is destined to be killed?!
If we look back to the beginning of creation with Adam and Chava living in Gan Eden, Hashem commands them to enjoy all of the trees in the garden except the Eitz Hadaat. One could ask why did Hashem even create the Eitz Hadaat in addition to the question as why was it so difficult for Adam and Chava to stay away from the one tree they weren’t allowed to partake from.
The nature of the Jewish people is to connect to Hashem. Throughout life we are always looking into more opportunities to connect to something more meaningful and profound. As much as Adam and Chava understood the rules they were given, they failed in holding back that desire to connect the Ribono Shel Olam. Partaking in the fruits of the Eitz Hadaat could only help them appreciate and connect more to Hashem.
Hashem needed to set the boundaries for Adam and Chava because without providing them with rules they would not be able to see Hashem’s influence and presence in this world. Adam’s mistake was that he misunderstood how to recognize and respect Hashem. Sometimes to refrain is the way to connect and not the opposite.
So too the Jewish people as Har Sinai. They were challenged with the greatest challenge that their ancestor failed in. They needed to understand that respecting the Hashem-given boundaries is the greatest way to connect and internalize the relationship with Hashem that would be had when receiving the Torah.
Shiur ID: 9245