The Na’aseh Venishma Syndrome

Friday, 2 February, 2024 - 2:32 am

A couple came into my office. He is a Israeli Jew, she’s a European Jew. They were thinking of getting married and had come to find out about the procedure.

When I started to explain to them what is expected of them, the husband-to-be said that he already knows everything. His cousin’s friend had become a Ba’al Teshuva, his brother had been to Uman two years ago, and his grandfather (of course!) had been a Rabbi.

I just smiled to myself and said, “The Na’aseh Venishma (we will do and we will hear) Syndrome.”

“Na’aseh Venishma,” he repeated. “That’s what the Jews said on Mount Sinai, right?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Na’aseh Venishma is what we said when we received the Torah. But the Na’aseh Venishma Syndrome is what you are doing right now.”

And so, maintaining a pleasant demeanor, I told him of the interpretation that we have attached to Na’aseh Venishma. Originally, as we know, it is an expression of obedience to Hashem and unconditional acceptance of the Torah. But we, over the years, have turned it into “First we’ll do what seems right to us, and then we’ll hear what you have to say.”

The young man understood me immediately, and from then on listened seriously to what I had to say.

I myself experienced the Na’aseh Venishma Syndrome, when I first bought a closet from Ikea. As a proud Israeli, I didn’t think that I needed to take lessons from the Swedes of Ikea. I put together the closet – “did” it – and then, when I noticed that it was somewhat wobbly, I opened the instruction booklet and “heard” about the mistakes that I had made. Taking apart the closet and starting all over again, while muttering my frank opinion of the Swedes, taught me the hard way that one must first hear, first listen, try to understand, and only then – do.

We are about to hear tomorrow the Ten Commandments 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will hear,' the children of Israel said then. 'We will do and we will hear,' we say practically every morning when we rise, 'we will do and we will hear' we implement mainly on difficult and painful days when questions and doubts arise .But please do not confuse Na’aseh Venishma with the Na’aseh Venishma Syndrome.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalman Wishedski

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