Rabbi Levi Medalie
Pretoria Hebrew Congregation
Then he [Moses] took the book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the People. And they said, “All that G-d has spoken, we will do and we will hear!”
וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה' נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע.
At the end of the Amidah we say “and let my soul be like dust to all”. Immediately following this we say “open my heart to your Torah”. This is because only once you lose your ego can you become a suitable receptacle for Torah.
This explains why the Bnei Yisrael only became worthy of receiving the Torah after declaring "נעשה ונשמע" – “we will do and we will hear”.1 With these words, they committed themselves absolutely to observe the mitzvot even without knowing what they might entail. This meant that they had stripped themselves of their egos and were prepared to give up their own wants and desires to fulfil the will of Hashem.
These words were also, therefore, an expression of unity amongst the Bnei Yisrael. Every person’s level of understanding - נשמע - is naturally unique and different. Even in the performance of mitzvot - נעשה - there are differences. There are mitzvot in the Torah that apply to only certain groups or individuals and others only in certain places. It is in the sequence, first נעשה and only then נשמע, that unity and equality is expressed. In their readiness to place Hashem’s will before their own, there was no difference between the greatest Torah scholar and the simplest Jew.
We thus find a progression of unity amongst the Bnei Yisrael in the days preceding Matan Torah. In describing their encampment on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Torah says “and (he,) Yisrael, camped there opposite the mountain”.2 Rashi explains that the singular expression “and he camped”, teaches us that there was a profound feeling of unity amongst the Bnei Yisrael at that time - they were “like one man with one heart”. Four days later, on the 5th of Sivan, when they said "נעשה ונשמע" – “we will do and we will hear”, their unity reached an even greater level. It was expressed outwardly for the whole world to hear. The feeling of unity translated into action. And then Hashem gave them the Torah.
During this crisis, we have witnessed incredible acts of chessed, carried out with genuine care and concern for one another, across the globe. The unity within Am Yisrael is not just a feeling in the heart. As King David said “(and) who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth!” May Hashem consider these merits worthy of the ultimate revelation and the coming of Moshiach now!