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eJudaism: 41 - Luca Brasi, Doron Kavillio, Shavuot (Part 2)

05/27/2022 12:00:00 PM


Michael Greenfield

When Don Corleone wanted Jack Woltz to get an offer he couldn't refuse, he dropped Luca Brasi - a mountain of a man - on top of him. The Don didn't know it, but he was taking a page from Midrash. After Moses reads the Book of the Covenant to the people, they respond by saying, "Na'aseh v'nishmah! We will do and we will hear!" Obeying first and understanding later? What gives?

According to the Midrash, the actual and biggest OG of them all - the Big G - reached out to the people that day with two metaphorical hands. In one was Torah and covenant and reward. In the other, God held the mountain itself over the heads of the people and told them they could choose Judaism or choose to have the mountain dropped on top of them. They chose Judaism on Day 50, and now we celebrate Shavuot and the choice that was no choice at all.

In fairness to God, the Jewish people were still in their first 50 days of nation-building, the infancy of peoplehood. Like any good parent, God knew that children need (crave!) boundaries even, or especially, when they reject them. They test them, for sure, which is how they learn to feel safe, how they learn to understand the world and their place in it, how they learn which boundaries to outgrow and which to carry with them at all times. Those last ones are called ethics or, for us, Torah. And so God made the Israelites an offer they couldn't refuse and gave them a starter pack of two tablets with the basics.

Season 4 of Fauda is set to drop soon on Netflix, and things will no doubt continue to go from bad to worse for its main character, Doron Kavillio, who cares little for boundaries. But we already knew his fate from the start of Season 1, didn't we? In the dubbed version of that early episode, Doron's commanding officer berates him for straying outside the boundaries of the mission saying, "Next time follow orders!" But in the Hebrew version, he's more succinct. "Na'aseh v'nishmah!" he reminds Doron. Because we're better off in a world with boundaries.

Can we embrace this God who forcibly pulled the Na'aseh v'nishmah! from the lips of our ancestors? Reform Judaism is predicated on the idea of Informed Choice, the notion that we study Torah in order to find and better embrace that which ushers us into meaningful experiences with holiness. So, nu? Study. Find. Embrace. And make Shavuot a moment to reaffirm the na'aseh, the doing of Judaism - whatever that looks like for you.

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyyar 5784