Roy Neuberger - Feb. 23, 2018

Just seven words. It was not a Gemora, not a Rashi. It was a few words from a commentary explaining a Tosfos. I was sitting in Yerushalayim early Shabbos morning and trying to understand those seven words.

You know my background. I never attended yeshiva as a child and did not enter the world of Torah until I was thirty-one. Chumash, Mishna, Gemora, Rashi and Tosfos came very late for me. I struggle with it.

So I sat there Shabbos morning, looking at those seven words. Suddenly, they were clear to me.

I was so excited! I felt as I was standing at Mount Sinai! I felt Eternity open up. “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly.” (Pirkei Avos) And the Men of the Great Assembly transmitted it to …. me! Those seven words connected me to G-d! I felt the simcha of the Month of Adar, the Month of Purim, the simcha of being connected to the Soul of the Universe.

What is the simcha of Adar?

I never understood what was meant by “kimu v’kiblu ha’yehudim …the Jews established [in the days of Achashverosh] that which they had already accepted [in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu].” (Shabbos 88a) What happened in the days of Purim which enabled our ancestors to accept what they had been reluctant to accept previously?

A sentence in the Torah Portion of Yisro says, “Moses brought the people forth from the camp toward G-d, and they stood under the mountain (Mount Sinai).” (Exodus 19:17) “Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa said: [This] teaches that Hashem covered them with the mountain … and said to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, fine. But if not, your burial will be there.’” Rav Acha bar Yaakov then states that covering the Children of Israel with the mountain appears to be “coercion regarding [acceptance of] the Torah!” (Shabbos 88a)

What is happening here? Hadn’t the people already willingly accepted the Torah? Had they not said, “Everything that Hashem has spoken, we will do and we will hear!” (Although these words are written later, Rashi explains that they were actually spoken prior to the giving of the Torah.)

Why did our ancestors apparently have to be “coerced” into accepting the Torah?

Or Hachaim explains: “We need to determine the reason for the double use of the word ‘listen … you will listen,’ [which the Torah uses at Mount Sinai]. Perhaps Hashem intended to instruct our ancestors that [they would need] to accept two [distinct] components of [the] Torah, one [the Written Torah] that He would convey to them in that setting, and one [the Oral Torah] that [the Sages] would teach [in all future generations].” (Exodus 19:5)

Ah! Now it becomes clearer. At Mount Sinai, our ancestors accepted upon themselves the Written Torah, which they were hearing from Hashem at that time. But the Oral Torah was a different matter. As Or Hachaim explains, the words of the Sages “are things that have no [maximum] measure, and [thus] there is no limit to such a commitment, for in every generation [the Sages] may pass new laws, safeguards and enactments. Who then [the people said], can uphold a Torah such as this that has no maximum measure?” (ibid)


So our ancestors resisted accepting the Oral Torah at that time, and Mount Sinai was held over their heads in order to “coerce” them to accept. Obviously, this difficult situation needed rectification. What was to be done?

The solution came about in the Days of Mordechai and Esther.

Let us once again consult Or Hachaim: “[Indeed, the people’s acceptance of the Oral Torah] was [considered to have been made] under duress, [and thus was somewhat deficient], until the days of Mordechai [and Esther]. When [the people] saw the wise, life-saving actions that Mordechai and Esther had taken [on their behalf to annul Haman’s decree,] they once more took [the Oral Torah upon themselves, but this time] willingly, to fulfill every new thing that the Sages would enact for them, after they saw how great were the deeds of [Mordechai and Esther], without which there would not have remained a trace [G-d forbid!] of the [Nation of] Israel!” (ibid)

My dear friends, the entire world knows about the Torah which Hashem gave to us at Mount Sinai. But who lives it? Only we, the Nation which has descended from the Generation of the Desert. Our connection to that generation is sustained by a holy thread, the words of the rabbis, the loyal interpreters of the Oral Law which has been handed down from father to son.

Now we can begin to understand the magnitude of the Yom Tov of Purim and basis for the earth-shaking simcha of this month of Adar! “Rava said: [the people] accepted [the Torah] again in the days of Achashverosh, as it is written, ‘kimu v’kiblu … the Jews established and accepted,’ [which is interpreted to mean that] they established [in the days of Achashverosh] that which they had already accepted [in the days of Moses].” (Shabbos 88a)

“Mastery of the Oral Law requires long, diligent intense study and a high degree of self-sacri-fice. Only those who truly love G-d can muster the devotion this calls for. That is why G-d’s covenant with Israel is based on the Oral Law.” (Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Noach 3, as quoted in Artscroll Maseches Gittin 60b, Footnote 9)

When we are attached to the Oral Torah, we are attached to life! As the Megilla says, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor!” May the light return to its primordial brilliance in our own days with the coming of our redeemer, Moshiach ben Dovid!


Recent Posts


Rebbe Ishmeal enemies Shushan bible Land of Israel Tzuk etan Esther pray commandment heavenly throne Sea of Galilee Macabees Leah Jerusalem peace Isaiah Ishmael earthquake Raiders of the Lost Ark keys patriarchs shield of Abraham barley Western World Jeremiah Red Sea Rashi Rosh Hashanah bird Children of Israel chaos mitzva Avraham Holy Temple Pharaoh Joseph Genesis leprosy Elul ancestors Repentence self-worship Matisyahu logic gossip priests sin Moab Moshiach Judaism Bilaam Boaz patriarchs'matriarchs Rachel three weeks Master of the Universe paradise Esau Magog brotherhood Beit Hamikdash flood darkness Creator Hagar seder Sabbath persecution trees Temple Mount Psalms Solomon Divine presence Zion, Angel biblical kesuba idol blessing terror sanctity Aharon Amram Jacob stones Final redemption Edom murder terrorism Samuel the Prophet Ashkenazi Gog Ruth Shechina sun Psalm terrorist Laban Torah portion Yom Kippur esrog evil inclination shofar liberation Tisha b'Av spies holy hubris yarmulke Zion Golden Calf Maccabeans slavery fires rain Chafetz Chaim Baku Abrahem Mount Sinai United Nations New Moon Mount Hermon stars tremors Eglon Geula Sodom Ten Commandments prayer book world to come Chofetz Chaim Sephardi evil Canaan Jewish People Pinchas Chol haMoed incense High Priest missiles Isaac Rebecca Matriarchs Day of Atonement High Holy Days heaven God chessed fault Protective edge Golus Mordechai repent prophet dreams light Sages Judgement Day Golan Babylon Exodus danger Nation of Israel Sefiras haOmer David water ethics Amalek mitzvos Maimonides Miriam matzos pain Adam lights kiddush Rome Solar eclipse prayers resurrection Holy land prophet Samuel King David sacrifices spirituality idolatry Holocaust tablets Torah creation angels survival Faith yeshiva minyan siddur Jewish festival forefathers fear eternal Midrash Western Wall Haman India plague prophets Chanukah automobiles Red Heifer Yerushalayim Father in Heaven Earth Ammon king Miraglim Torah scholars Zechariah purity media miracles Malbim Moses Hashem death End of Days messiah miracle fragrance Banias locusts Day of Judgement Samuel America alone Benjamin Prophecy Purim Jews Angel of Death King Solomon culture Jewish holidays materialism moon Rabbi Akiva Heavenly Mercy Passover Seder Moshaich G-d rabbi Achashveirosh soul evolution Tu b'Shvat 2020 Vision Holy Ark Babylonia compassion spiritual Holiness Tu b'Av Shavuos Rosh Hashana redemption mikveh, Sabbath Abraham redeemer secret Jewish cholent tears angel Ishamael tabernacle Passover Eve Blame Galil shmittah night Noah Chanukkah rosh chodesh Song of Songs Yaakov deluge prayer King of the Universe exile Dead Sea kinneret Bais Hamikdosh kosher terrorists synagogue meraglim Moshe menorah Second Temple Sukkos Lunar eclipse holiday Hasmoneans mikveh Tallis bris milah Terror Attack in Jerusalem Zohar Sarah Temple Tefillin Garden of Eden repentance salvation Talmud violence Parsha slaves Sukkah Ezekiel Rabbis song eternity Hebrew Balak Greeks Israel Egypt judgement Europe Jew Mount Zion Lot Shabbos heavenly gates Teshuva Judah war cries