Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We will do and we will hear

Last week in the Torah's Parsha Mishpatim, while the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God stopped them at Mount Sinai to give them the Ten Commandments and a long series of other laws. After receiving these laws, the people responded, "naaseh v'nishma" which means "We will do and we will hear/understand" (Exodus 24:7). 

This one phrase in the Torah has sparked years of theological discussion. Shouldn't the phrase be flipped around? How can you do something before hearing what it is and understanding it? So at Torah study, we talked about rituals - those things in our lives, religious or not, that we do without ever having been told and without quite understanding why. What do you do regularly for no discernible reason? How many things do we have to do first in order to understand them? Before I had ever heard this line of Torah, the philosophy of doing before hearing/understanding was the guiding force in my conversion.

It took a year and a half of regular Shabbat observance, theological study, and cultural immersion before I felt comfortable and at home in Judaism. I progressed from awkward newbie to "hey, this is fun" to spiritual frustration as I failed to connect on the higher level I was hoping for to desperate prayers to God for a connection with a religion until, finally and suddenly, everything clicked. I "did" Judaism and then I understood it, connected with it, and heard God's response to my prayer for a religious home. I don't think it could have happened the other way around. To hear/understand and then do is logical. Faith is not.