The six hundred thousand people gathered around Mount Sinai
didn’t discuss it beforehand. They didn’t consult with each other and
decide on a consensus response. As we read in this week’s Torah
portion, Moses descended the mountain as Hashem’s messenger and
offered the Torah to the Jewish people. They asked no questions, held
no conferences. And yet, they responded in one spontaneous outcry,
“We will do it!”
How could such a thing happen? How could six hundred thousand
people spontaneously utter the identical response? Whoever heard of
even six Jewish people being of one mind, let alone six hundred
Let us read a little further in the Torah. “And Moses referred the
words of the people back to Hashem.” Here again, we are puzzled. Why
would Moses have to convey the response of the Jewish people back to
Hashem? Didn’t Hashem know on His own what the Jewish people had
The commentators explain that we are all a composite of body and
soul, material and spiritual. Our material side responds to our
environment, to our specific needs, to our situation. But our spiritual
side completely transcends the physical and temporal. The spirit in its
purest form is a divine spark, a blaze of eternal fire that responds only
to the ultimate truths of the universe and is entirely impervious to the
petty considerations of mundane existence.
Divisions and disagreements only arise when we are focused on
our material sides. Since innumerable factors affect our material
existence, no two people ever really experience the exact same
conditions. Therefore, it is almost inevitable that there will be some
differences in the way we react and respond to diverse situations.
But if we step back from our material existence, if we reach deep
within ourselves and connect with the divine spark that resides in all of
us, we can break free of all the pettiness of the mundane world and
soar into the exalted realm of the pure spirit. And in this world we are
one, luminescent divine sparks united by our perfect connection to the
Source from which we are all derived. There are no divisions, no
Had the Jewish people related to the Torah as a set of instructions
to govern and improve their material lives, they would undoubtedly have
responded with a plethora of questions, opinions and suggestions. But
they understood that the Torah functions on a much more profound
level, that it is the channel which connects the divine spark within each
of us to the Master of the Universe, that it provides the wings on which
our spirits can soar to the highest spheres of Heaven. In this light, there
were no divisions among them, and they responded with a spontaneous
This then is what the Torah is telling us. “And Moses referred the
words of the people,” he explained their universal agreement, “back to
Hashem,” by attributing it to their total focus on connecting with
A king was once travelling through the outlying districts of his
realm. In one very remote village the people gave him a wonderful
welcome, and the king was so moved that he promised them a gift.
After much reflection, he decided to give them an airplane, since
this would connect them to the rest of the country and improve their
economy and quality of life. The airplane was delivered, and the people
sent the king letters thanking him for the precious gift that had so
enriched their lives.
Several months later, the king visited the village again. The people
greeted him with great festivity and took him to see the airplane he had
so generously gifted to them. He was taken to a lush meadow beyond
the village, and there it stood in all its gleaming splendor.
All around the airplane, families were enjoying picnic lunches.
Teenagers sat on the wings, their legs dangling off the sides. Children
scampered excitedly through the fuselage and cockpit, sliding down the
emergency chutes and running back up for another turn. Everyone was
having a wonderful time. When the king appeared, they all applauded
and shouted their gratitude.
“My dear people!” the king cried out. “What are you doing? This
In our own lives, we all appreciate the ideals and values of the
Torah. We know that the timeless wisdom of the Torah is as fresh and
relevant to contemporary life as it was three thousand years ago. We
know that it prescribes a way of life full of wonderful benefits and
rewards. But do we also realize that “this thing flies”? But indeed it
does. If we connect with the Torah on a spiritual level, we can transform
ourselves and enrich our lives in ways we never thought possible.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.