Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson
condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:68-69

The Time for Accepting the Torah out of Free Will


Various Rabbis

Elul 19 5779
Gemara: [Last time we saw the famous gemara about Hashem holding Mt. Sinai over Bnei Yisrael’s head and thereby effectively coercing them to accept the Torah.] From here there is a great moda’ah (Rashi- excuse) [for insufficient observance] about the Torah. (The way that we will see that Rav Kook explains this gemara is somewhat different from Rashi). Rava said: Even so, they accepted it once again at the time of Achashveirosh, as the pasuk says: "The Jews fulfilled(/confirmed) and accepted" (Esther 9:27) – they confirmed that which they had accepted previously.

Ein Ayah: [We saw last time that the idea behind the Torah being coerced is that Bnei Yisrael were of a nature that made it absolutely necessary for the world that they accept it.] Had the Torah been given to Bnei Yisrael through their free will, then its illuminating content would not have been as connected to the essence of the nation and the depths of the souls of its individuals. Then it would have been possible for their transgressing the Torah by their choice to have erased the impact of sanctity that the Torah was supposed to have made in them. However, since Bnei Yisrael are linked to the Torah based on the necessity that it is not possible any other way, transgressions cannot alter that except on the external level. These matters are beyond any specific display of desire and apply even when actions seem to point in a different direction.

This is what the gemara means by a moda’ah – all the improper actions do not cause a ruining of the foundation of Bnei Yisrael’s level by means of bad choices. This is the highest level of moda’ah. It is not a moda’ah based on a weakening of the acceptance of the Torah (as Rashi explains), but rather a divine revelation that nothing can alter the overall relationship between Hashem and Israel, which is beyond choice.

The natural foundation that beats in the heart of Israel does not allow the element of free choice to find expression to its fullest extent. Since our forefathers stood by Mount Sinai, the natural light of a life of sanctity gained strength and became revealed, which caused the element of free choice to take a step back into darkness. Then, the only way to give the fullest expression to the free choice arose when there was a great storm of intoxication caused by the evil inclination toward idol worship. Then the nation was capable of having free will which could have allowed them to either accept or not accept the Torah. It required a high intensity of venom and power of the inclination toward idol worship to make there be such a possibility of choice.

The deterioration on a national level caused a great weakening of the light of natural sanctity. At the time of Achashveirosh, when there had already been the phenomenon of bowing down to the form of an idol and the enjoyment of taking part in the feast of the wicked Achashveirosh, all of those foreign elements penetrated into the Nation of Israel and darkened the light of natural sanctity. The light was hidden inside the soul. This was specifically arranged by Hashem so that they would be able to use the ability to make a free choice [on a broad national level]. This, in turn, brought about repentance, as there was choice to go in one direction or another, which was caused by Haman’s decree. This is when there was an actualization that confirmed that on the level of free choice, there was also a will to accept the mitzvot. It was no longer based only on the natural level, which had been the basis previously.
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