Dear Rabanit Cohen,
The Torah outlines the 10 commandments in a just a few pesukim while the entire introduction of the Jews preparing themselves prior to Matan Torah, is elaborated upon. There are more pesukim that describe the preparation for Kabalat Ha’Torah than there are describing the Aseret Ha’dibrot. Why is that?”
Ilanit Mandelbaum, Ramot, Israel
What a wonderful question. I will try my best to answer you with something that takes place in this week’s parsha, Parshat Mishpatim that I feel is a lesson of life.
Moshe Rabeinu (a”h) asked the Jewish people to each donate a machatzit ha’shekel – a half a shekel. What is the significance behind the half-shekel coin? Why half and not a whole?
In life, many of us experience the feeling of, “I’m not enough.” Interestingly, this feeling is more common among women. As a matter of fact there were statistics provided by a huge company called, Hewlett Packard that prove this point.
Their human resource department concluded that on average, a man who applies for a job usually fits sixty percent of their criteria. Hewlett Packard has certain needs that must be met before an applicant can apply for position in their company. The resource Department noticed that if there are ten items on the list and a male candidate knows that he possesses six out of the ten, he will still apply for the job.
But with the women it’s different. Most women will not bother to apply for the job unless they feel they can fulfill one hundred percent of what’s required of them. Although they may possess ninety percent of what’s needed from them, the women still feel as though, “It’s not enough.”
When a child is born into the world, there is a feeling of freedom that envelops him. As a little child, you can do whatever you want. If you want to sleep, you sleep. If you want to eat, you’re fed. Your body functions whenever it wants. You pretty much do whatever you want. And as that child grows older, he takes pride in saying the words, “I’m big. Right I’m big? I’m so big.”
But the he grows up and begins to realize that he’s small; he’s really small. He thinks, “I’m so small.” He thought he had many abilities and that he’s just as good as everyone else. But then that little child took his first trip to kindergarten and he surveyed the scene and realized that there were kids in the classroom who were smarter than him.
He looks around and notices that there are other kids who are more athletic than he is and far more charismatic. He looks around his first grade classroom and sees students in his grade who are more talented and whose parents are happier than his. He sees children who own many more items and have more siblings than he does.
Then he proceeds to second grade and realizes there are kids in his class who have more friends than he does. And as this child proceeds from one year to the next with all these realizations, he may start conjuring up various thoughts. A little judge in his head manifests itself.
When it’s six years old, young and impressionable, that little judge looks around and realizes that, “I’m not the same as everyone else. I’m not as great as everybody else.” That little judge starts to judge and criticize you. You start to think things like, “I’m inadequate. I’m not enough.”
When Am Yisrael was in the desert and they were about to receive the Torah think about what they may have been feeling. Imagine finding out that you’re about to receive a playbook for life – and it has a thousand things you need to do. Could you imagine the overwhelming feeling?
The Jews looked at the Torah and they proclaimed the words, “Naaseh ve’nishmah” – but in the back of each Jew’s mind he thought, “How am I we going to be able to do this? I’m so inadequate. I was just a slave 49 days ago. How in the world am I going to be ready for this tremendous undertaking?”
In response to the overwhelming feeling ה’ told Am Yisrael, “This isn’t what you think it is. The Torah isn’t a list of instructions. It’s not a list of limitations or a list of subjugations. The Torah isn’t a document that points out how inadequate you are. The Torah was given to you in order to build a relationship.”
Hence, Hashem instructed Moshe Rabeinu to ask the people to donate a half a shekel. That action was meant to illustrate the connection between Am Yisrael and Hashem. It was meant to each us that Judaism is a relationship with G-d and every person is on a different level and has a different way in which he builds that relationship the Almighty.
That means that no person should ever feel inadequate because all we’re trying to do is build a relationship and as long as we’re doing and giving our best HALF, Hashem is completing the other half. This is the lesson of the machatzit ha’shekel and the answer to your question.
The reason the Asaret Ha’Dibrot were not elaborated upon was because Hashem did not wish to overwhelm Am Yisrael in their moment of feeling so inadequate. At the same time, the preparations prior to Matan Torah were elaborated upon because Hashem wanted to teach us that a person has to do his very best to prepare himself for a holy union and relationship between him and the Creator that will be forged and last forever.