Friday, January 21, 2011

260 - Yisro

Before Matan Torah, Hashem asks Moshe to determine whether Bnei Yisroel are interested in accepting the Torah. Their immediate response is recorded in the Torah: "And the entire nation answered as one and they said, 'All that Hashem has spoken we shall do'" (Shemos 19, 8). The Mechilta explains the seemingly superfluous wording of the pasuk "as one" as follows: These words were added lest one think that all of Bnei Yisroel answered in a similar fashion due to chanufa i.e. because they felt pressure to conform. The Torah informs us that the agreement to accept the Torah was an individual decision made by each and every one in Klal Yisroel.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) elaborates, that often when a poll is taken in a public forum, there is a majority that feels one way while a dissenting opinion is held by a minority of the people present. Nevertheless, in many instances, the minority is too embarrassed to voice their opinion and therefore, they agree with the majority. The Mechilta refers to such consent as an act of chanufa. They don't want to concur, but they also can't bring themselves to say no to those with whom they disagree.

A congregation, or for that matter any group of people that are acting together, is a powerful force. A group of people learning Torah or fulfilling mitzvos together creates an atmosphere that can aid in strengthening one's Torah observance since it's easier to apply oneself when there are numerous people striving toward a similar goal. However, there is also a down side to being part of a group because it hinders a person from developing his own individuality. He is concerned with what everybody else thinks in general, and how they regard him in particular. This causes him to act or conform in ways that might not be appropriate for him.

There are definitely instances that require one to conform to the opinion of the majority. However, in all other situations, one must be careful not to merely copy the opinions of others. Rather, he should take the time to determine the best course of action for his individual achievement and act accordingly. He should ask himself, "What is the course of action that will best promote my growth as a Torah Jew?" Like everything else in life, a tzibbur must also be used in the proper manner if one wishes to achieve the optimum results.

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