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There they were, stationed around the mountain, ready to receive God's most precious gift, the Torah. Ten Commandments were etched into stone symbolizing the concrete relationship between God and His people.
Hashem made His voice heard when He communicated the first two commandments to the Jewish people directly. The rest were transmitted to the Jews through God's agent, Moshe Rabbenu (Makos, chap. 3, "Eilu Hein Halokin", pgs. 23b-24a; Rebbi Samlai and Rav Hamnuna; based on Parshas V'zos Haberacha, 33:4).
Why did God choose to convey the first two Dibros (commandments) to the Jewish people directly? It seems that Hashem placed an emphasis on them. This is problematic because we are supposed to treat all the mitzvos equally (Avos, 2:1, Rebbi Yehudah Hanasi).
The Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh (Parshas Yisro, 20:1; based on Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 22, pg. 64a; and the Likkutei Amarim, chap. 20) shares a fundamental teaching about the first two Dibros. He says that the first commandment, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha" (I am Hashem Your God; Parshas Yisro, 20:2) is a positive commandment to believe in God. This positive commandment incorporates all of the other 248 positive commandments within it.
The second commandment, "Lo Yihiyeh Lecha Elohim Acheirim Al Panai" (You may not have any other gods before Me; Parshas Yisro, 20:3) is a negative commandment not to believe in any other power. This negative commandment is all inclusive of the other 365 negative commandments.
As such, the first two Dibros serve as the roots of the entire Torah because all the mitzvos of the Torah are wrapped up within the first two Dibros. This explains why Hashem told the Jewish people about the first two Dibros directly. He wanted to give them the roots of the Torah in one shot, in order to implant the Torah on their hearts in such a way that the Torah would never be forgotten from them or from their descendants. We are going to elaborate on how Hashem achieved this.
We have found an astonishing phenomenon throughout Jewish history. When there have been harsh decrees to forcibly convert Jews out of their faith, even Jewish transgressors have chosen to die torturous deaths rather than abandon their religion, thus sanctifying God's Name.
This is surprising because these transgressors have led sin filled lives. They hardly ever stood up to the temptations surrounding them, even though abstaining from those lustful passions would not have resulted in so much pain. How then, did these same people have the strength to endure such tortures so as not to abandon their heritage?
The Ba'al Hatanya (Likkutei Amarim, chap. 18) says that this strength comes from the holy soul that every Jewish person possess as an inheritance from the Avos and Imahos. Even Jewish transgressors possess this holy spark. The only reason why these people sin so much is because that spark is currently sleeping. So many layers of spiritual filth cover that holy soul that it is temporarily hibernating.
However, when push comes to shove, and the Jew is presented with an ultimatum, "Are you with us or against us? Are you in or are you out?" that pressure triggers this inner spark and activates it. The Jew is suddenly flooded with an uncontrollable love for God that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs possessed. This love of God bursts forth with such a holy fire that it cannot be quenched by any amount of water in the world. This is what gives, even Jewish transgressors, the fortitude to sacrifice their lives for God.
The Berdichover Rebbe (Kedushas Levi, Parshas Yisro) has a different theory about where this inner strength comes from. He says that it comes from the fact that Hashem spoke to the Jewish people directly when He commanded them in the first two Dibros. By speaking to them directly, Hashem implanted in the hearts of each and every Jew, even within the hearts of Jewish transgressors, an incredible power of love for God. By hearing the voice of God directly, an uncontrollable force of desire and longing to do God's will was engraved even on the hearts of Jewish sinners.
The only reason why these people sin so often is because that seed which God planted within them is currently asleep. So many layers of spiritual pollution cover that seed that it is in hibernation. However, when the pressure of a test that challenges his very essence presents itself to him, that seed is activated and an overwhelming force to do God's will overtakes the person to such a degree that he is willing to die for it.
This Kedushas Levi supports the Ohr Hachayim above who said that by Hashem speaking to the Jewish people directly, it implanted the roots of Torah in them to such a degree that it could never be permanently forgotten from.
So far, we have two approaches which explain where even Jewish transgressors get the strength of Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice). According to the Ba'al Hatanya, it comes from the precious soul that we inherited from the Avos and Imahos. However, according to the Kedushas Levi, it comes from hearing Hashem when He spoke to us directly.
The Shvilei Pinchas says that both are really true. The reason why Hashem spoke to us directly was because we already inherited that holy spark from the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. By speaking to us directly, Hashem reinforced the power that we had already inherited. The two approaches actually complement each other (See Eiruvin, chap. 1, "Mavui Shehu Gavoah", pg. 13b).
All of this will help us understand the Gemara in Niddah (chap. 9, "Ha-isha Shehi Osah", pg. 61b, Rav Yosef) which says, "Mitzvos B'teilos L'asid Lavo" (in the future, the mitzvos will become batel - nullified). At first glance, this statement is difficult to comprehend. Since the Torah is eternal, its mitzvos are also eternal. How could the mitzvos become abolished. Does this mean to say that when Moshiach comes there will be no more matzah, no more succah, no more mezuza, no more Shabbos, etc.? Maybe this is why some people want Moshiach to come right away. Maybe it's because when he does, we won't have to do mitzvos anymore. What would the point of Moshiach coming be if there were no mitzvos to fulfil afterwards?
The Ritva (Rabbenu Yom Tov ben Asevilli, b. Seville Spain 1250, d. Zaragoza Spain 1330) explains this Gemara by saying that of course the mitzvos themselves will not disappear, because the mitzvos are eternal. However, the Gemara means to say that when Moshiach comes, we will no longer be "commanded" to do them, but, we will do them anyway. Therefore, when Rav Yosef says, "Mitzvos B'teilos", it means that the "Tzivui" (being commanded) will cease to exist. In the Messianic era, we will perform the mitzvos as "Aino Mitzuveh V'oseh" (as one who is not commanded to do), and not as "Mitzuveh V'oseh" (as one who is commanded to do).
Reb Yonasan Eibeshitz (Ya'aros Devash, vol. 2, derasha 9) explains why this is going to be the case. It is because there is an advantage in doing a mitzvah when not being commanded to do so, and there is an advantage in doing a mitzvah when being commanded to do it. The advantage of doing a mitzvah when not being commanded is that this demonstrates that we do the will of God not because we have to, but because we want to.
The advantage of doing a mitzvah when being commanded is something called "yitzro takfo" (his evil inclination is strengthened; Tosafos, Kiddushin, chap. 1, "Ha-isha Niknis", pg. 31a, Divrei Hamaschil "Gadol"). This means that the moment we are told that we have to do something is the moment that our Yetzer Hara of rebelliousness kicks in and says, "Don't you tell me what to do! I only do what I want to do!" In order for us to fulfil a mitzvah that we have to do, we must overcome this rebellious streak. Since this is difficult to do, our reward is increased.
The question is, which advantage is better than the other? The answer is found in the Gemara (Kiddushin, chap. 1, "Ha-isha Niknis", pg. 31a; Rebbi Chanina) which rules, "Greater is one who is commanded to do and does than one who is not commanded to do and does." The advantage of "yitzro takfo" outweighs the advantage of doing because we want to and not because we have to.
However, this is only true today because we have a Yetzer Hara. However, in the future, when Moshiach comes, Hashem is going to destroy the Yetzer Hara. Then, the advantage of "yitzro takfo" will no longer exist. The only advantage left will be doing the mitzvos as one who is not commanded to do which demonstrates that we do mitzvos because we want to, not because we have to.
This is why Rav Yosef says that in the future "mitzvos" will become nullified, meaning, the "tzivui" will be obliterated. It is because in the future it will be better to do the mitzvos without being commanded to do because that will be most advantageous, because then, we can display our desire to do the mitzvos because we want to, not because we have to.
The Shvilei Pinchas suggests another reason why the Gemara says that "mitzvos b'teilos" in the future. When Moshiach comes we are all going to be on such a high spiritual level that Hashem won't have to tell us to do all the specific mitzvos. Rather, Hashem will just have to tell us the first two Dibros, and we will be able to figure out all the rest from those two. After all, the first two commandments contain all of the other mitzvos within them.
Therefore, "mitzvos b'teilos" means that there will be no need for Hashem to command us in the majority of mitzvos because we will be able to perceive all the mitzvos through the lenses of the first two Dibros.
This was the level of Adam Harishon in Gan Eden before he sinned. Hashem placed Adam in Gan Eden "to work it and to guard it" (Parshas Bereishis, 2:15). What type of work was necessary in the Garden? Everything grew on trees. What type of guarding was needed in the Garden? There was nobody else around to fend off.
The Zohar (Parshas Bereishis, pg. 27a) says that "to work it" meant that Hashem gave Adam one positive commandment, whereas, "to guard it" meant that Hashem gave Adam one negative commandment. The Shvilei Pinchas says that the one positive commandment was "I am Hashem your God," and the one negative commandment was "There may not be any other gods before Me."
Since Adam was on such a high and pure spiritual level, he was capable of perceiving all the other mitzvos through the lenses of those two. There was no need for Hashem to tell Adam about the other mitzvos because he was capable of reaching the other commandments on his own by delving into these two. Unfortunately, when Adam sinned, the Yetzer Hara entered him (Rashi Parshas Bereishis, 2:25), and he was no longer capable of obtaining the other mitzvos through the first two Dibros.
So, when Hashem spoke to all of the Jewish people directly at Har Sinai by telling them about the first two Dibros, the message was clear. Hashem expected of us to obtain the level of Adam before the sin and thereby be able to see all the other mitzvos through the first two Dibros.
Ya'akov Avinu achieved this level. After running away from Eisav, Ya'akov went to sleep on the future site of the Beis Hamikdash. After waking up from his prophetic dream, he said, "Surely Hashem is present in this place, Va'anochi Lo Yadati" (but I did not know; Parshas Vayeitzei, 28:16). The Agra D'kalla (Parshas Vayeitzei) says that at this point in Ya'akov's life, he reached the level of Adam before the sin and was able to understand all the mitzvos through the first two Dibros.
This is hinted to in the words of the verse that says, "Va'anochi Lo Yadati." The word "Va'anochi" stands for the first Dibur, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha." The next word "Lo" stands for the second Dibur, "Lo Yihiyeh Lecha." The final word "Yadati" means "I know." When you put it together, Ya'akov was saying, "Now I know the entire Torah through the first two Dibros, "Anochi" and "Lo."
It is very fitting to find that Ya'akov reached the level of Adam before the sin because Ya'akov was a gilgul of Adam Harishon (Zohar, Parshas Bereishis, pg. 35b; See Baba Metzia, chap. 7, "Hasocher Es Hapoalim", pg. 84a). Since Ya'akov fixed his participation in the sin of the Eitz Hada'as that he himself committed when he was Adam Harishon, he was able to return to the level of Adam Harishon before the sin.
This explains why Hashem named Ya'akov "El" (Megillah, chap. 2, "Hakorei Limafreya", pg. 18a, Rebbi Elazar; Parshas Vayishlach, 33:20). It is because the name "El" (spelled aleph lamed) serves as the acronym for "Anochi" and "Lo". Hashem wanted to show that Ya'akov rectified the sin of Adam and went back to that former level before the sin, and was once again capable of identifying all the other mitzvos through "Anochi" and "Lo."
Since the Gemara said, "Mitzvos B'teilos L'asid Lavo" which means that we are not going to have to be commanded in most mitzvos because we will be able to figure them out through just two commandments, "Anochi" and "Lo", it is teaching us that, in the future, we will all be on that level. We will all be like Ya'akov Avinu. We are B'nei Yisrael, which means B'nei Ya'akov, which means B'nei "El". We are all going to follow in Ya'akov's footsteps eventually (Shvilei Pinchas).
Practically speaking, each day, let us try to say at least the first two of the Ten Commandments (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 1:5), and then say, "This is the root of the entire Torah. These two Dibros stand for Emunah in Hashem, and they contain all the other mitzvos within them. May I merit to understand all the mitzvos through the lenses of these two Dibros, so that I fix my part in the sin of the Eitz Hada'as, and bring the world full circle to the level of Adam before the sin."
This recitation will help increase our awareness that there is only One Power, and it will help improve our Emunah in Hashem, and it will increase our awareness about our responsibility to do all the mitzvos.
So, may we all be blessed to imprint the root of Torah on our hearts and increase our faith in One God, and through that deserve to see the interconnectedness of Torah more and more - how six hundred and thirteen boils down to one theme - which is something we will never forget, and thus merit to hear Hashem, our Kel, speak to us directly again, which will be a time when the mitzvos will be batel, just as it was in Gan Eden before the sin.