Parshas Yisro:
Instant Prophesy
By Rabbi Henoch Plotnik

    The Rambam in Mishne Torah (Yesodei HaTorah chapter 7) describes the prerequisites for becoming a Navi or prophet of G-d. To paraphrase: " Nevua (prophesy) can only be achieved by an extraordinarily wise man, strong in character, in total control of his inclinations and possessing great breadth of knowledge… one who abstains from the behavior of the general populace...and never pays attention to the frivolous matters of the day, but leaves his mind clear towards the heavenly throne." This is no small feat for one to accomplish and certainly requires constant work and diligence.

    The question then arises: We read in this week’s parsha of the greatest revelation in the history of mankind, the Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. As the Torah states, the Almighty himself spoke to the whole nation of Israel and declared the first two of the Ten Commandments, at which point our souls left us out of pure awe. Essentially, the Jewish nation as a whole reached the level of receiving nevua. Should it not have required years of intense preparation and fine tuning of the soul to enable one to experience this? Yet, how much were we required to "prepare" for this momentous event? "You shall prepare three days!" (Shemos 19:15). Is it possible to attain such lofty levels in just three day’s time?

    Perhaps one approach is as follows. Rabbeinu Yonah in his Sha’arei Teshuva (Sha’ar 2, Derech 3) writes: " When one listens to the admonitions of wise men and resolves in his heart [to listen], he is transformed into a different man. And from the moment he resolves he acquires the merit and reward for all the mitzvos. Fortunate is his lot because in a fleeting moment he has made himself righteous." Rabbeinu Yonah proves that as soon as one makes a serious resolve to fulfill the mitzvos and accept the tochachos (admonitions), he immediately is credited with having actually performed his resolutions. The Torah relates in Parshas Bo, "And they went and performed the Korban Pesach" although in actuality it only took place two weeks after the stated command. The resolve to do it was already "credited" to their account, as good as done. Furthermore, in Avos D’rav Nosson it is written, "Whoever’s deeds exceed his wisdom, his deed will last." How can one’s deeds surpass one’s knowledge? Only if, as a result of his "wisdom", he commits himself to act and resolves to fulfill any mitzvos which come his way. Through this he will immediately be rewarded for those "deeds" simply by resolving to do them without even knowing at the moment of resolution what they will eventually be. This is precisely what we did on Mount Sinai by declaring na’aseh-we will do- before nishma-we will listen. The immediate resolve to do was money in the bank and considered as good as done.

    We can now answer our original question. How could the Jewish nation experience such a revelation with such short preparation? The answer may lie in those two words, na’aseh v’nishma. Once there was a resolution to keep all of the Torah, not only did they receive credit for the mitzvos they would eventually do, but also for the lofty spiritual level they would some day achieve. Therefore, despite not having actually gone through the normal channels to achieve nevua, they got it in an instant, because their resolution was indeed honest and sincere. Not only did they receive s’char mitzvah-reward as if they had actually performed the mitvos, their madreigos-the spiritual heights one reaches through performance of mitzvos- were elevated as well.

    This point can be further borne out by a story I heard in my formative years of a Jew who was informed by his doctor that he was going to lose his eyesight in six months. Frantic, he went to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l to seek his counsel. R’ Moshe told him to finish Shas! Figuring that R’ Moshe neither understood nor believed his predicament, he approached Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt"l with the same request for guidance in those last precious months and was told the same thing, to finish Shas. Realizing "by the mouth of two the matter will be carried out" he resolved to finish Shas and years later was relating this incredible incident while still in possession of his eyesight! Good story, I thought, but was it really true? Years later, while learning in the Chicago Community Kollel Bais Medrash, a man sat down grasping a briefcase and a pamphlet he was obviously laboring over to edit and publish. His eyesight seemed strained. I greeted him and we engaged in conversation. One thing led to another until the topic turned to the matter of the man’s eyesight. I couldn’t help but tell him the story I had heard. "Do you think it’s really true?" I asked. "Of course," came the reply. "It was me!" This illustrates the tremendous reward a person can receive as a result of a sincere commitment to better oneself.

Published and İFebruary 10, 1998 by the Chicago Community Kollel


Rabbi Plotnik, an alumnus of the Kollel, is the Rav of Congregation Adas Bnei Yisroel, as well as the eighth grade Rebbi in Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi



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