The Radical Secret

The Divine names that we shall mention in this letter are “Hashem” and “Elokim.” As we discussed, Hashem expresses the Divine attribute of compassion, which is why we often refer to Hashem in our series as, “the Compassionate One.” Elokim expresses the Divine attribute of justice, which is why we often refer to Elokim as, “the Just One.”


 Dear Friends,


The Torah - the Teaching of the Compassionate One - was given on Shabbos, the sacred Seventh Day. Before the Torah was given, the People of Israel made a covenant with the Compassionate One to fulfill the Torah and its path of mitzvos - sacred deeds which enable us to serve and protect the Divine creation. They therefore proclaimed in unison, “All that Hashem has spoken, we will do, and we will hear!” (Exodus 24:7)


The Talmud records the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Elazar: At the time when Israel said, “We will do” before they said, “We will hear,” the Heavenly voice went forth and said of them, “Who revealed to My children this secret that is used by the angels of service?” For the angels are ready to “do” before they “hear”, as it is written (Psalm 103:20), “Bless Hashem, O His angels, the mighty of strength who do His bidding, to hear the voice of His word.” (Shabbos 88a)


The Talmud describes how a heretic ridiculed the People of Israel for first saying, “We will do,” before they said, “We will hear.” The heretic argued that they first should have listened to the contents of the Torah before deciding to do the bidding of the Compassionate One (ibid). A person does not, however, need to be a heretic in order to wonder why our people first said, “We will do” before hearing the Divine instructions. In fact, doesn't one first have to hear the instructions for an assignment before one can fulfill the assignment? Why, then, did we first express our readiness to “do” before we heard what needed to be done?


The human being was created to serve the Divine creation, as it is written,  “Hashem Elokim took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden l'avdah ul'shamrah - to serve it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15). A spiritually enlightened human being is therefore aware that his whole purpose in life is to serve the Creator through serving and protecting the Divine creation. Such a person says to the Creator, “I am already willing to fulfill the altruistic purpose for which You created me, and I am therefore ready to hear Your instructions.”


As we mentioned, our sages refer to this altruistic attitude as the “secret” that is used by the angels of service. The Hebrew word for “angel” is malach - a word which also means “a messenger.” An angel is a “messenger of service” - a heavenly being that was created to fulfill a specific purpose of the Creator. These heavenly messengers have only one will: to be of service to their Creator. They are therefore ready to fulfill the Divine purpose “before” they hear the Divine instructions, and this readiness to serve is the secret of how they become “the mighty of strength who do His bidding, to hear the voice of His word.” At Mount Sinai, we discovered this secret, and we too became messengers of service! We freely chose to become like the angels, and we proclaimed in unison, “We will do and we will hear.” We are already willing to fulfill the altruistic purpose for which you created us, and we are ready to hear Your instructions.


May the Compassionate and Just One help all of us to rediscover the radical secret of the angels.


Have a Good and Enlightening Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen


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