“Kol asher diber adonai na’aseh” – “All that God has spoken, we will do.”
The first time the Israelites offer this affirmation of intent is shortly after they arrive at Mt. Sinai, after God has brought Her Presence during their journeying to their attention.
I hear God singing: “I did lift you up on loving eagle wings, I have brought you back to me.”
Indeed. Feeling thus held and cherished by Hashem is new to me. I now know that what our liturgy teaches us is true, that we are loved by an unending love. This knowing, deep in my kishkes, gives me the courage to ultimately embrace whatever is unfolding in my life. In the face of radical uncertainty, I affirm my commitment to remain in relationship with God, knowing what a gentle, compassionate Presence She has been in my life to date.
“All that God has spoken, we will do.”
The second time the Israelites affirm their commitment, is in this week’s parasha, after Moses has received from God both the ten commandments and a long list of laws and commandments. At the end of Her mishpatim, God promises to send an angel before the Israelites to guard them and to bring them to the place She has prepared for them.
God’s first reassurance to us was about the past, that even though we might not have always been conscious, She was, and is, always with us – through all the hardships of our journeying through the wilderness to arrive at Sinai, on the cusp of revelation. This knowing gave the Israelites the courage to say ‘yes’ to God’s covenant even before hearing what She might ask in return. God’s second reassurance to us is about the future. Having received revelation, each in our own way, and as a people, and as we ready ourselves for the next leg of a dangerous journey through the wilderness to an unknown destination, God offers us the assurance of Her ongoing Presence, in the form of an angel. We trust that she will not abandon us in the future, and find the courage to say ‘yes’ again, even in the face of uncertainty.
When feelings of despair or fear arise in me, I stubbornly cling to my faith in God and in angels. I strive to continually reaffirm my love for, and trust in God – even when I am decidedly “not feeling it” – seeking the courage to face the next leg of my journey with an open heart.
“Kol asher diber adonai na’aseh v’nishma” – “All that God has spoken, we will do and we will hear”
The third and final time that the Israelites confirm their intention to fulfill their side of the covenant, they add v’nishama – and we will hear. By then, Moses has written down God’s words and erected an altar, the first sacrifices have been offered and the record of the covenant read to the people. In the present, having been offered tools and practices to cultivate their relationship with God in this realm, the Israelites are able to commit without further reassurance from God, to hear their hearts’ deepest desire to serve God.
This is the ever-present moment in which we choose, again and again, to invite God into our lives, to affirm our covenant with Her, individually and as a people. This is the moment of integration. And how do we get here? By not only doing what our tradition teaches us, but also by listening intently to the ‘still small voice’ within. By staying present with what is so.
The people’s affirmation of their intent to enter into covenantal relationship with the God of Israel was a 3-step process. Each ‘yes’ enabled a deepening of God’s relationship to the Israelites. The first na’aseh was followed by revelation. The second na’aseh enabled Moses to write down God’s words and build an altar. The third na’aseh v’nishma sealed the covenant, and paved the way for further visions and God’s gifting us the two tablets. Yet this was only the beginning, as the Israelites lost faith in the following days, months, years, they once again had to find their way back to center and to reconfirm their commitment to live in right relationship with God. As do we.
The rabbis created a liturgical way for us to renew our covenantal promise to God daily. Shma Yisrael adonai eloheinu adonai echad.
Shma – listen, hear, this is what God wants from you, find within you the ability to love and serve God with all your heart, soul, resources – v’nishma
This everyday knowing and recommitment to truth is far more precious to me than thunder and lightning, than visions of God. The glory of God is with us in the present moment.
When I sing the Shma – whether in community, by myself or to my children – I am inviting each of us to seek truth, comfort and joy in the Jewish faith and in the God of Israel. In so doing, I continue to reaffirm my ancestors’ intention – to do and to hear God’s word. And when the present moment feels too hard to bear, I know I can fall back on the reassurance that just as God lifted us up on loving eagle wings in the past, and promised to send us on our way with protecting angels, so She is with us now, every moment of every day.
“Kol asher diber adonai na’aseh v’nishmah”
“All that God has spoken, we will do and we will hear”