Our Responsibilities

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Our Responsibilities

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


This week’s portion takes place nearly a year after the Jewish people received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. At this moment, the Children of Israel correctly assumed that they were on the verge of entering the land of Israel. Sadly, they committed three sins which forced them to wait forty years before they would be able to enter the land of Israel.  

The Midrash (Yalkut Shemoni) explains that their first sin was the matter in which they left Mt.Sinai: “the Jewish people fled the mountain like a child runs away from school”. Nachmanidies explains they were worried G-d would prescribe more commandments for them (The other two sins were complaining about the manna and the incident of the spies).

Why is this such as terrible sin? Is it not human nature to not desire more responsibility? And what is wrong with “fleeing like a child from school”? Isn’t the definition of religion, things we have to do?

It's not like the Jews said they were not going to fulfill the commandments, yet this sin had a domino effect and eventually caused the Jews to wander for forty years. 

In order to understand the travesty of this sin, we must first understand how we are meant to relate to our responsibilities.

In a normal contractual relationship, a mutual feeling of love is not only not necessary, but could also possibly cloud the relationship. However, one of the principal factors in our relationship with G-d is love.  

When G-d created the world, He envisioned a people who would be a “nation of priests”, who would accept the yoke of responsibility for teaching the world. Only in the time of Abraham, who was the 20th generation from Adam, did He find a worthy progenitor for such a nation.

Our “contract”, i.e. our acceptance of the Torah, does not signify a mere business relationship, but something much deeper.

The Jewish year is focused around the holidays, those days which signify special events. After the period of Shavuos, we enter the period of the commemoration of the destruction of the Temple. At this same time we read the portions dealing with the sins the Jews committed in the desert, which resulted in them being there for forty years. This is obviously no coincidence. What are we to learn from this synchronicity? 

The Midrash on the book of Lamentations quotes G-d as saying: “were it only that they (the Children of Israel) had forsaken me, and not my Torah.” What G-d is saying is that for us to understand the true essence and beauty of our responsibilities, we must study the Torah. We must be intellectually and emotionally aware of how and why we do things. Without this knowledge we will be lacking the passion required to embrace our relationship with G-d and will be subsequently unequipped to fulfill our special role in the world.

When the Jewish people departed Sinai in such a fashion it showed an immaturity, a lack of understanding of their true selves.

We can rectify this by delving into the Torah. To question and attempt to gain deep insights which in turn will make us better Jews. And this, G-d willing, will lead to the building of the third temple.

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