Two Levels of Learning by Shai Berman


When Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, they proclaimed, “Naaseh VeNishma,” “We will do and we will obey” (Shemot 24:7). Rav Semai says that when Bnei Yisrael said this, putting Naaseh before Nishma, 600,000 Malachim came down and placed two crowns on each person’s head. The Beit HaLevi quotes the Zohar which says that Naaseh refers to doing worthy actions (the Mitzvot) and Nishma refers to learning Torah. This in turn shows that there are two equally important parts of Talmud Torah - learning so that one can fulfill the Mitzvot and learning Lishma. 

If these two segments are equal, why did Bnei Yisrael have to place Naaseh before Nishma to acquire the crowns?  The Beit HaLevi answers that if they had said “Nishma VeNaaseh,” it would have been misunderstood as meaning, “We will learn the Halachot so that we can later do the Mitzvot.”  If the phrase were set up like this, it would not teach the importance of learning Lishma. We can derive from this a very important lesson.  Even if one would learn all Halachot pertaining to him and would observe all the Mitzvot that he is commanded to keep, he must still continue to learn.  In a similar vein, the Pardes Yosef suggests a reason why the word, “Yachdav,” “together,” is omitted when Bnei Yisrael said “Naaseh VeNishma,” but is included when they say just “Naaseh” in Parashat Yitro (Shemot 19:8).  In Yitro, the Meshech Chochma comments that, when Bnei Yisrael just said Naaseh, they implied that they would learn the Halachot so that they could observe them. However, it is impossible for any individual member of Bnei Yisrael to do this because no person is responsible for every Mitzvah.  For example, certain Mitzvot apply only to a King or a Kohen, while others apply only to ordinary people.  Only when Bnei Yisrael is Yachdav – together as one unit – can Bnei Yisrael fulfill all of the Mitzvot (Naaseh).  Later, in Parashat Mishpatim, Bnei Yisrael included Nishma, learning Lishma.  Every individual in Bnei Yisrael can learn Lishma, even for Mitzvot that he is not required to keep.  We can and must learn even things that do not pertain to us.  It is possible for one to receive the same amount of Schar, reward, as a person would get for performing a certain Mitzvah by just learning about that Mitzvah.  As the Gemara in Menachot (110a) states, “When anyone learns about the Mitzvot of a Korban Chatat, it is as if he offered a Chatat.” 

Interesting Law by Arieh Levi

Who’s We? by Rabbi Joel Grossman