God's Love for Us
Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )
Have you ever felt uninspired in your Judaism? Did you ever wonder if there was some kind of special weapon that can be used against despair and hopelessness in spiritual growth? Isn't there any quick 'pep' talk section in the Torah that will get you going again?
It would appear that such a segment does indeed exist and is found in this week's Torah portion, all in the span of two and a half verses.
The Revelation at Sinai is about to occur. The most significant event in all of world history -- God's communication of His laws and directives to the world -- is at hand. God tells Moshe that he should make some introductory remarks, in God's name, before God Himself talks to the Jews at Sinai.
So shall you say to the House of Jacob and tell to the Sons of Israel: "You have seen what I did to Egypt and that I carried you on wings of eagles and have brought you to Me. And now if you listen well to Me and you will keep My covenant, you will be a treasure to Me from all the peoples, although all of the earth is Mine. You will be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These are the words that you should speak to the Children of Israel. (Exodus 19:3-7)
Rashi comments on the phrase "These are the words": No more, no less.
This comment begs the following question. Why does God suspect Moshe to suddenly change or distort His words? God testifies about Moshe that he is the most faithful person alive (see Bamidbar 12:7), which is perhaps the reason why Moshe is chosen to be the messenger of God to transmit the Torah. If so, we know clearly that Moshe never added or subtracted anything from the way in which God instructed him to say something. What then could Rashi's comment "no more, no less" mean?
The explanation is as follows. We derive from here the method that Moshe used to relate God's words. First, Moshe would say: "These are the exact words of God." Then, when he would finish stating God's words, without adding or subtracting a single one of them, Moshe would begin to explain and exhort, to admonish and to urge. He would isolate certain concepts from God's words, individually, and use his own words to clarify or motivate.
At times, Moshe felt the need to mention and discuss a concept that was not directly or specifically mentioned in God's words. This being the case, God tells Moshe that in this instance, in the introductory words of motivation for the Jewish People's acceptance of Torah should be "no more, no less." The concepts discussed by God here are the only concepts that are necessary for the Jew's commitment to God's Torah and Covenant. God does not want Moshe bringing up any other reason or motivation for the acceptance of Torah. The ideas in these two and a half verses are all that's required.
So, if we want to know how we can further our personal acceptance and commitment to Torah, and conquer disillusionment and despondency, we must look at these verses and discover its ideas for motivation. God informed Moshe that everything one needs to become inspired to accept Torah can be found in these verses -- nothing more, nothing less. One shouldn't think that long, involved speeches or actions are necessary. If we read and study these verses seriously, we will have all that is required to begin spiritual growth and closeness with God.
What do these verses stress?
If you were given only 5 minutes to speak to an audience about God and religion, and these 5 minutes would be the only opportunity for this audience to hear about God in the entire lives, what would be the most important topic to discuss? It would probably be the fact that God loves and cares for each and every one of us. Through hearing such words, people would begin to discover God's love and concern and want to relate to God. If I hear that someone loves me, I usually try to find out who he is and in most cases attempt to love him back. In God's case, my quest to discover His love for me will lead me to perceive the love through His Instructions for Living, which is the Torah.
God tells us in these verses: "You saw what I did to Egypt. You know why I destroyed and punished them. It was not due to My anger for their evil sins and immorality. They were deserving of punishment long before they met the Jewish nation. I was waiting, thinking perhaps they might repent. But as soon as they began making life difficult for you, I started striking against them. This could only be because I love you. I was even willing to protect you like an eagle defends his young." (Paraphrased based on Rashi.) God continues to relate: "If you keep My Torah, you will be My treasure. I only want the best for you and I want you to be My holy nation and kingdom of important ministers."
There are, of course, many details and subjects in these verses that are discussed, but in general they are all messages of God's love for us and how we are to maintain that love. This is the key element to inspire a nation to accept a Torah at Sinai and the main thrust necessary to motivate individuals to commit or re-commit themselves to spiritual growth through God's Torah.
So, if you are down and out, and have just about had it with trying to grow spiritually, remember God loves you. He cares about everything that is going on in your life and anxiously awaits your relationship with Him.