Turning It Around at Har Sinai by Shai Berman


The Gemara (Shabbat 145b-146a) states: “BeShaah SheBa Nachash Al Chavah Hitil Bah Zuhama,” “When the snake came to Chavah, he placed on her a contamination,”   “Yisrael SheAmdu Al Har Sinai Paskah Zuhamatan,” “When Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, this contamination ceased to exist,” and “Ovdei Kochavim SheLo Amdu Al Har Sinai Lo Paskah Zuhamatan,” “Other nations who did not receive the Torah continued being contaminated.”

What pollution is the Gemara talking about and how is this pollution connected to both Chavah’s interaction with the Nachash and our receiving the Torah?

Rav Yaakov Meidan, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion, suggests an answer to this question.  He proposes that when the Nachash convinced Chavah to eat from the Eitz HaDaat, he also convinced her and her husband Adam to adopt a completely new mindset in regard to Hashem.  He convinced them that Hashem gave them commandments that were not in their best interest.  He convinced them that Hashem told them not to eat from the Eitz HaDaat because He wanted to keep the power of knowledge to Himself and not share it with anyone else.  This meant that man’s new mindset was that God’s decrees were not for man’s benefit; rather, they were to rule man and deny him pleasure and rule.

Before Hashem gave Bnei Yisrael His Torah, He asked other nations if they would accept it.  Suspicious and cynical, these nations asked Him what is in the Torah.  When Hashem gave them the details, the nations, with the mindset that God’s rules are evil, responded by refusing the Torah because it would change their way of life; the Torah would not be for their good, it would be to their detriment.  In contrast, Bnei Yisrael responded “Naaseh VeNishma” with complete faith and trust that Hashem wanted only good for them.  Rav Tuvia Grossman points out that it is shocking that Bnei Yisrael said “Naaseh VeNishma” and accepted even the Tochachah, which was given to them at Sinai, without even knowing what Mitzvot they would have to keep in order to avoid the punishments enumerated for them in the Tochachah.  It was as if Bnei Yisrael accepted an empty check from Hashem which He could fill out with whatever commandments He wanted. 

When Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, they were cleansed of a contaminated belief as old as man.  No longer did they think that God’s Mitzvot were for His good rather than theirs.  They now realized God’s Mitzvot were for their good as well.

Every Mitzvah Counts by Chaim Metzger

A Berachah of Love by Rabbi Josh Kahn