Undoubtedly, it was one of the greatest moments in the annals of Jewish history. When our ancestors stood at Sinai and were asked if they would accept the Torah, they unequivocally proclaimed “Naaseh V’Nishma – We will do and we will hear.” It was a proclamation of complete and unyielding obedience and commitment.

How strange it is, then, that the Gemara (Shabbos 88b) relates that, afterwards, Hashem held Har Sinai above their heads and warned that if they don’t accept the Torah, “there will be your burial place.”

Why did the nation have to be forced to accept something they had already accepted unconditionally?

Tosafos answers that although their acceptance was genuine, there was concern that the nation would become overwhelmed with fear when they saw the awesome revelation of Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah. To ensure that the nation did not renege on or abrogate their earlier commitment, Hashem held the mountain above them to demonstrate that their acceptance was not retractable.


Barry had always talked of becoming a doctor. As a toddler, he liked “playing doctor” all day. Whenever his mother took him to the doctor, he would ask the nurse and doctor endless health-related questions.

As he grew up, it’s all he ever spoke about. In his elementary school and high school yearbooks, it was predicted that Barry was going to be a doctor.

Throughout his school years, Barry pushed himself to ensure that he had perfect grades so that he would be able to get into med school. He enrolled in all available honors courses; and during the summers, he took extra science courses, giving up vacations and extracurricular activities to study more. He became a paramedic as soon as he was old enough.

When he finally graduated college and was accepted to med school, he was elated. His parents took out loans and stretched themselves financially to pay Barry’s tuition.

On his first day of med school, Barry set off, full of confidence and excitement, to finally fulfill his life’s dream.

When Barry returned home that evening, however, his demeanor was vastly different. Gone was the bounce in his step and the glimmer in his eye. Over supper, his parents concernedly asked him why he looked so pale. Barry replied that he had clearly made a mistake. As he went from class to class that day and saw the syllabi and requirements for each class, he felt increasingly overwhelmed. He doubted that he could keep up with the demands and workload. In fact, he decided to give up med school completely and pursue a different vocation.

After Barry told his parents about his decision, there was a tense and uncomfortable silence. Then, suddenly, Barry’s father leapt out of his seat and charged at Barry like a possessed madman. He stuck his reddened face an inch in front of Barry’s and began ranting about how much work they had done to arrange for Barry to attend med school, not to mention all the loans they had to take out. “And now you think you’re just going to quit!? Over my dead body! You’re going to go to med school and you’re going to do your hardest or else you can find another place to live!”

Barry sat there, stunned. His father was always even-keeled and docile. He had never heard his father speak that way before. He got up from the table and, with his feet and hands shaking, went to his room and slammed the door.

But the next day, Barry went back to class. Despite having a panic attack and feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, Barry made it through the day. He went again the next day and the day after. Days turned into weeks and then months. Barry worked extremely hard, and his efforts began to pay off.

Years of arduous efforts passed and, after finishing his internship, residency, and fellowship, Barry passed his final exams and was ready to begin practicing medicine independently.

Barry drove to his parents’ home and beamingly showed them his certificate of completion. His father’s eyes filled with tears as he embraced Barry and then said, “Barry, your mother and I knew you had what it takes to become a doctor and fulfill your lifelong dream. But we also knew that if you allowed your anxiety to control you, all your dreams would end up remaining unfulfilled.

When I intimidated you that first day, when you began med school and wanted to throw it all away, I didn’t want you to give up on what I knew you wanted and had the capability to do. It was never about the money or the effort we put in. I was only forcing you to accomplish your own dreams and aspirations. Was I wrong?”

Barry smiled from ear to ear. “No, Dad! Although it was quite jarring then, if you wouldn’t have forced me to overcome my fear, I wouldn’t be here today!”


When Hashem forced klal Yisrael to accept the Torah after they had unequivocally declared Naaseh V’Nishma, he was ensuring that they would not forfeit their own aspiration. Hashem knew that they genuinely wanted to live up to their pledge. But it was frightening and intimidating. Hashem held their feet to the fire so they wouldn’t back out from fear.

This was essentially the difference between Rus and Orpah. Megillas Rus relates that Rus and Orpah accompanied their (former) mother-in-law in her return to Eretz Yisrael. When Naomi urged them to return to their birthplace because she knew they would be facing many hardships and unknowns, Orpah left while Rus remained.

In a sense, by marrying into Naomi’s regal family originally, Orpah had declared “Naaseh V’Nishma” and committed herself unwaveringly to Torah law. But when she metaphorically felt the mountain being held menacingly above her, she turned her back and left. Rus, on the other hand, stood up to the challenge. Things only became more challenging for her and Naomi, but Rus persisted and became the progenitor of the Davidic dynasty and the hope and future of the Jewish People.

The Rambam (Hilchos Geirushin 2:20) writes that a recalcitrant husband can be forced by court to give his wife a Get. This despite the fact that a Get not given willfully is invalid. The Rambam explains that every Jew essentially wishes to keep halachah properly and not violate the Torah. If he doesn’t do so, it’s because his evil inclination has overwhelmed him. However, once that inclination is literally beaten out of him and his evil inclination is weakened, his true desire comes forth.

Every day at the end of the Brachos, we pray that Hashem “force our inclination to be subservient to You.” At times, we may be inspired to serve Hashem on a higher level than we have until then. We need to be aware that any Naaseh V’Nishma commitment is bound to be met with resistance from our evil inclination. One needs to be ready for the invariable struggle and not allow himself to become discouraged by it. It’s par for the course in being able to scale our personal Har Sinai.

But the view from the summit is unparalleled.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, a rebbe at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, is a parenting consultant and maintains a private practice for adolescents and adults. He is also a member of the administration of Camp Dora Golding for over two decades. Rabbi Staum was a community rabbi for ten years, and has been involved in education as a principal, guidance counselor, and teacher in various yeshivos. Rabbi Staum is a noted author and sought-after lecturer, with hundreds of lectures posted on torahanytime.com. He has published articles and books about education, parenting, and Torah living in contemporary society. Rabbi Staum can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His website containing archives of his writings is www.stamTorah.info.