Parashas Mishpatim, Part 2

The end of this week’s parashah recounts some events related to the Giving of the Torah. It is here that we find the Jewish People’s famous declaration: “We shall do and we shall listen.” The Midrash, in Ruth Rabbah Pesichasa 1, expounds on this declaration at length. In his commentary on the Book of Ruth, the Maggid offers two explanations of this Midrash. Below I present one of them, in abbreviated form.
The Midrash states:
“Hear, O My People, and I shall speak” (Tehillim 50:7). How did you merit to be called “My People”? From “I shall speak”—because you spoke before Me at Sinai and said (Shemos 24:7): “All that Hashem has spoken we shall do and we shall listen.”
This Midrash seems to take the verse from Tehillim far beyond its plain meaning, which is simply a call from Hashem to the People of Israel to listen to what He is going to say to them. Also, the Midrash seems to make quite a stretch in reading the phrase “I  shall speak” as “because you spoke.” The Maggid, however, shows how the Midrash fits perfectly with the plain meaning of the verse.
The Maggid builds on a simple concept from everyday life. Suppose a person habitually makes all his purchases at a certain store. He will then naturally refer to the manager of this store as “my storekeeper.” Similarly, if a person always uses a certain tailor or handyman, he will speak of “my tailor” or “my handyman.” A person who uses a certain tailor once will not automatically refer to this tailor as “my tailor.” However, if the tailor makes an arrangement with him after the first time to do all his tailoring work from then on, then he can refer to the tailor as “my tailor” even after just one job.
The same idea applies to the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People. The fact that we accepted Hashem’s word on one occasion would not in itself give us the right to have Hashem call us “My People.” We gained this title only because we pledged on that occasion to listen to Hashem regularly from that point on, whenever Hashem would speak to us through His faithful prophets and men of wisdom. When we declared at Sinai “We shall do and we shall listen,” we made a covenant for the future that binds us to heed Hashem’s word at all times.
This is the message behind the verse from Tehillim: “Hear, O My People, and I shall speak.” Hashem is telling us why we are obligated to listen to Him when He speaks. Hashem says to us: “How did you gain the right to be called ‘My People’? Not because you listened to Me on one occasion. Rather, because on that occasion you spoke before Me and said: ‘We shall do and we shall listen.’ With these words, you promised that whenever ‘I shall speak,’ you will listen. And so you are duty-bound to listen to what I shall speak to you now.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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