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The State of the Jewish People
Rav Reuven Ungar
Based on the Meshech Chochma of Rav Meir Simcha HaKohen, Rav of Dvinsk
"And you will be for me a treasure (segula) for Me, amongst all the nations, for the entire land is Mine" (Shmot 19:5).
What connects the segula aspect of the Jewish People with the fact that Hashem is The Master of the World?
It is obvious that when the nations of the world are immersed in pagan and idolatrous beliefs, the Jewish People- who testify to the true belief in The Single Creator- are precious to Hashem. The verse reveals that even when mankind recognizes and acknowledges the rule of Hashem ("for the entire land is Mine"=acceptance of Hashem), the Jewish People remain a unique and precious treasure to Hashem.
In Parshat Yitro the entire nation agreed to fulfill ("na'ase") the commands of Hashem (Shmot 19:8). In Parshat Mishpatim, however, the Jewish People pledged to fulfill and to study- literally hear ("na'ase v’nishma") the commands of Hashem (Shmot 24:7). What generates this textual distinction?
It is impossible for one person to personally fulfill the entire 613 mitzvoth. Certain mitzvoth are performed exclusively by Kohanim, others by Levites, as well as by specific individuals- the High Priest, the king. By what means can we merit to fulfill the Torah in its' totality?
The Jewish People are referred to as an individual human being; "you are a man" (Yechezkel 34:31). The righteous are the heart of the nation, the wise are the eyes ("ayney ha'edah"- Bamidbar 31:26). When each component of the Jewish Nation/Person fulfills the command that is within his capability, the entire Jewish People is in reality fulfilling the totality of the mitzvoth. Indeed, all Jews are responsible for the mitzvah observance of fellow Jews (kol yisrael areven zeh lazeh- Masechet Shavuot, 39a) - it is a group effort!
Another way for an individual to fulfill all of the mitzvoth is to study the halachot of those mitzvoth that he cannot personally fulfill, or to support the study of Torah. "Anyone who immerses himself in the laws of bringing a sacrifice to atone for a sin (karban chatat), is considered as if he has actually sacrificed a chatat." (Masechet Menachot 110a).
The above verses allude to the means of total mitzvah observance. In Shmot 19:8. the ENTIRE nation (kol ha'am) agreed to fulfill all of the commands of the Torah. The mitzvah observance of the entire nation functioning as one individual warranted the usage of the term "na'aseh"- we all will perform the mitzvoth in their entirety.
Shmot 24:7 does not record the entire people responding at once. As individuals, one is required to perform what is practically feasible (na'aseh) and to study (nishma) the halachot of those mitzvoth that are removed from the realm of actual performance. Thus, both forms of observance- na'aseh and nishma- are recorded in the verse.
1: Parshat Shavua