Kabbalat HaTorah - A Relationship

Submitted by Rebbetzin Joan Bernhard from the writings of her late husband, Rabbi NM Bernhard, zl, from the files of Rabbi NM Bernhard 1994


Rav Avdima Bar Chama says that The Holy One, Blessed is He, held the mountain over them, like a "bucket".


(Talmud, Shabbat 88a)


אמר רב אבדימי בר חמא בר חסא מלמד שכפה הקדוש ברוך הוא עליהם את ההר כגיגית.


(שבת פח.)


Kabbalat HaTorah is in essence the marriage of the Children of Israel to Hashem.


Much was made of the eager excitement and happiness whilst anticipating what was to come.


However there was a significant measure of apprehension!

What would "married life" mean?

This Torah - what would it contain?

What would it involve?

How would it affect their lifestyles?

Would it inhibit their ability to relate to others?


Sometimes getting married needs a little "nudge" to tie the knot.

Was it any different for the Children of Israel?

A certain amount of compulsion was needed to ensure acceptance.


In Masechet Shabbat,1 Rav Avdima Bar Chama says that Hashem put the mountain on top of them, like a "bucket". Hashem basically said "if you accept the Torah it will be just fine, but if not, you will be buried".


Harsh words.


The Meforshim suggested other kinds of compelling factors. The impact of the Miracles – leaving Egypt; splitting the sea; striking the rock, etc.


This forced the Jews as well as the Egyptians to accept beyond doubt, and to acknowledge the Creator, Hashem, as the leader of the world. How could they refuse to accept His commandments?

Gratitude Hakarat Hatov – were we not obliged?

Took us out of bondage; with great material and spiritual wealth; mind-boggling miracles for us; destroyed our enemies.


How could we refuse to accept His Torah?


Regarding the same verse, Chassidus explains:


He didn't want to kill them.

Rather Hashem encircled them with a lot of love.

They wanted a relationship with the Creator.

They wanted to be loved and cared for.

As do we!


What made the Children of Israel so very special was that in spite of their great anxieties they were not blind to the miracles they had witnessed.


They were a grateful people; wanting to be loved.


It made sense to proclaim Na'aseh V'Nishma2 – we shall do and then we shall understand!


  1. Talmud, Shabbat 88a

  2. Exodus 24:7


©2019 by The Office of The Chief Rabbi