Tuesday, January 04, 2011

v'lakachti eschem li l'am

When the Torah uses the term “am” as opposed to “Bnei Yisrael” it usually refers to the uneducated masses, (Rashi Bamidbar 11 writes that it refers to resha’im), the hoi polloi. So why would Hashem promise, “V’lakachti eschem li l’am?” Perhaps it means even as an “am” we are still accepted, but the pasuk seems to be more of an aspiration than a promise. Is being an “am” all we aim for?

The Shem m'Shmuel explains that as much as we value talmud Torah, thinking about the dvar Hashem, these are not the ultimate sources our commitment. A Jew who knows the simple fact that Hashem commanded X and therefore he/she does it is on some level far greater than the Jew who can tell you a whole lomdus and ta’amei hamitzvos and philosophy lesson to explain what he she is doing while the idea of mitzvah=commandment, obedience to outside authority, gets lost somewhere along the way. In some sense, yes, “V’lakachti eschem li l’am,” without any chochmos, is an ideal.

Maharal (Tif Yisrael ch 42) explains that Eisav was meticulous in his observance of kibud av because there is no more rational mitzvah that kibud av. We owe our very existence to our parents and it therefore makes sense to give them their do. When it came to things that made sense to him, Eisav’s enthusiasm was unparalleled. However, when things didn’t make sense, he felt no obligation whatsoever.

Moshe demanded from Pharaoh, “Shelach ami” – let even the “am” go free to worship. Not only the philosophers and wise men, but everyman. But, “Me’ein Pharaoh l’shalach ha’am” – Pharaoh refused to set the am free. Pharoah was willing to listen to reason, but having six year olds running around the desert is not reasonable. What possible value could it serve; what possible reason could there be for such avodah? “V’lakachti eschem li l’am” – the freedom to do what doesn’t make sense is exactly what Am Yisrael aspired to.

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