כה תאמר לבית יעקב ותגיד לבני ישראל...אלא הדברים אשר תדבר לבני ישראל (19:3,6)

When one examines Rashi’s interpretation of these two P’sukim it is clear that they convey a somewhat puzzling message, namely, that when Moshe gives over the Torah to Yisroel he must repeat verbatim the words he hears from H’ Himself, and that he may neither add nor detract a single word. Why is there such importance placed on ensuring the message of H’ is transferred to Yisroel as it is heard by Moshe? The answer to this question will provide a fundamental lesson in understanding our relationship to Torah.

The Medrash recounts that when Yisroel stood by Har Sinai H’ actually lifted the mountain above their heads and exclaimed “if you accept the Torah, fine, but if you refuse it I will make this your burial place”. Apart from any other questions of why H’ seemingly removes our free will by forcing us to accept the Torah, Tosafos in Shabbos 88a is bothered by a different problem. By the time this took place Yisroel had already committed themselves fully to the Torah when they exclaimed נעשה ונשמע;, we will do and we will listen. Why then was it necessary for H’ to then force Torah on us? Tosafos answers that despite our earlier committal to Torah, H’ was aware that the Revelation at Sinai where He revealed Himself in a great fire would be enough to cause Yisroel to change their minds out of fear. In order to avoid this He forced the Torah on us.

R’ Yakov Kamenetzky in Emes L’Yakov explains this Tosafos by borrowing a concept we find in Pirkei Avos (loosely, and probably incorrectly, translated as Ethics of the Fathers). In 1:3 Antoginus Ish Socho says that we should not involve ourselves in the service of H’ in order to receive a reward, rather, as Rashi there explains, we should engage ourselves in an active relationship with H’ and His Torah out of love. This rather touching message is marred by the final line in the very same Mishna, which states that we should always have in mind the fear of H’. R’ Yakov explains that we know well from Torah, Gemora and many other sources that there are two approaches to our service of H’. One is love and the other is fear. We have to maintain a relationship to H’ and the Torah that expresses both of these elements because each on its own is insufficient. Love can sometimes dip and fear does not provide the positive inspiration we need to fully attain self-perfection.

This provides a deeper understanding of the answer given by Tosafos. Since Torah requires both love and fear it is necessary for both to exist at the very accepting of the Torah by Yisroel as a nation. By suspending the mountain over the people H’ ensured that fear was perceived as a component of their awareness.

We now understand how integral the duality of emotions of love and fear is to our accepting Torah. Now we can explain why it was so important for Moshe to repeat only the words he hears from H’. It was crucial that Yisroel expresses the emotion of love in their accepting of Torah. But if they had any other reasons for being moved to accept the Torah, apart from pure love, this would distract from the acceptance. One such example may be a very convincing and influential Moshe telling the nation about how great Torah is, and how it provides the ability to reach self-actualisation and provides an extremely successful community framework. To ensure that Yisroel’s accepting of the Torah is out of pure love only, H’ instructs Moshe to give over the Torah itself, not a word more, not a word less. The perfect fusion of love and fear at Sinai ensured that until this day Yisroel are able to relate to H’ and Torah in a way that ensures maximum loyalty and greatest gain.

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