“Na’aseh v’nishma – We will do and we will listen/understand/learn.” (Exodus 19:8)
With these words, the Children of Israel accepted God’s Torah with all of its responsibilities and obligations. There have been many explanations written as to why “we will do” comes before “we will listen/understand/learn.” Among them:
- In Judaism, intentions are important but actions are what really count.
- According to rabbinic opinion, in most cases, a person who performs a mitzvah without focusing on its significance has nevertheless fulfilled his or her religious obligation.
- Another midrash (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai 24:7) suggests that “na’aseh v’nishma” means “we will do what we understand.”
I’d like to suggest my own interpretation: In order to learn effectively and to understand, one must first be a willing participant. The statement “We will do” offers first and foremost our willingness to do as God wants us to. We’ll listen, with our heads and our hearts, to figure out what that is, but we are ready and willing.
And now I must get back to my back to school preparations, For there is much to do and not enough time to do it.
The Jewish month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days provides an opportunity for spiritual preparation. It is a time for cheshbon ha-nefesh – looking inward and reflecting on the past year. The daily sounding of the shofar calls us to examine our words and our actions, and the words of Selichot (prayers of forgiveness) inspire us to seek forgiveness and to forgive others. We look ahead to the new year when we can begin anew, striving to be the best version of ourselves. Each day, I plan to blog on a thought related to this period preparation for the Days of Awe, along with many others in the Jewish blogosphere. For further inspiration, search #blogElul on Twitter or Facebook.
I invite you to add your own thoughts on the daily topic. Feel free to add your comments below or write your own blog, following the daily topics indicated or any others that call out to you.