As the Jews settle in the desert at the edge of Har Sinai, Hashem calls out to Moshe Rabbeinu and tells him to relay to the Jewish people, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. And now, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot 19:4-6). Why does the Torah need to add the words “And now”? Are they not superfluous? Rashi (19:5 s.v. VeAtah) explains that Hashem is trying to convey to the Jewish people that if they make an absolute commitment to keeping His Torah now, the observance of Torah and Mitzvot will become increasingly sweet from this point on, as “Col Hatchalot Kashot,” “All beginnings are difficult.” Thus, even though the Torah may seem like a difficult lifestyle with many restrictions, Hashem assures us that with a firm commitment to its observance, Torah, along with our relationship with G-D, will become increasingly sweet.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe points out that this is what we ask for every morning in Birchat HaTorah. In the second Berachah, “VeHa’arev Na,” we ask G-D to make the Torah sweet in our mouth as well as in the mouths of our children. Why is it necessary to make such a request? Rav Wolbe explains that a life of Torah is a commitment to discovering the “Ratzon Hashem,” “will of G-D.” The commitment cannot be based purely upon the premise that it is a sweet lifestyle, for if it is, we put ourselves at risk of relinquishing our commitment at times when we are challenged. Rather, we commit to the Torah because that is the will of G-D. We submit ourselves to the authority and request of The Master of the Universe, and throughout our journey, we pray to G-D to “make it sweet.” Our commitment is not contingent upon the fact that it is sweet, but once we are committed, we beg and plea for it to be a sweet journey.
Indeed, this is the message of the Mishnah in the fifth chapter of Avot: “Any love contingent upon a fleeting thing—when the thing passes, the love passes. However, love that is not contingent upon a passing thing—the love will last forever” (Pirkei Avot 5:16). As is true with any relationship, if our relationship with G-D is dependent upon a specific thing, the love, and commitment, is fleeting. However, if we love
G-D because we are intrinsically bound as one, the love and commitment will be everlasting.
This is what the Torah adds with the words “and now.” Before the Jewish people can receive the Torah, it is necessary to commit to the lifestyle of serving Hashem, to accept the Torah with whatever it entails. This is precisely what occurs. Moshe tells this to the Jewish People who then respond, “Whatever Hashem says, we shall do” (Shemot 19:8). This is the unwavering commitment to fulfilling the desire of G-D no matter what happens, which makes the Jewish people deserving of the Torah. One who makes such a commitment is the subject of Hashem’s assurance that “from this point on, it will be sweet for you.” We daven that we should all merit to see this blessing fulfilled and that the Torah should be sweet in the mouth of each Jew for generations to come.