Torah with Derech Eretz


By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

In the Haggada we say, “Had Hashem brought us before Har Sinai and not given us the Torah that would have been enough.” What exactly would we have gained by just standing at Har Sinai and not receiving the Torah? One answer could be that we received good middos at Har Sinai. The Gemara in Nedarim, daf chof says that the posuk describing Bnei Yisroel at Har Sinai saying “the fear will be shown on your faces,” is referring to “busha.” If a person does not possess the midda of “busha,” it is a sign that his forefathers did not stand at Har Sinai. We find that on the first day the Bnei Yisrael camped at Har Sinai they were “k’ish echad belev echad.” That was the only time there was no machlokes. It would seem that the fact that they arrived at Har Sinai brought them the madreiga of not having machlokes.

Bnei Yisroel were able to receive good middos at Har Sinai because at mamad Har Sinai they were forgiven for the sin of Adam Harishon. The Gemara in Shabbos, daf kuf mem vov explains that the reason the non-Jews can handle shratzim is because their body is not cleansed from the sin of Adam Harishon. The original snake, while causing Adam and Chava to sin, also injected them with a poison that would not leave until matan Torah. This poison is the cause for middos ra’os. That is why Klal Yisroel , who had the poison removed at Har Sinai, are recognized by the following three simanim; they are “rachmanim,” “bayshanim,” and “Gomlei Chasadim.”

With this we can understand why we needed to go to Har Sinai first, before being mekabel the Torah. The Torah can only last and survive when followed by people with good middos. The Torah never tells us to have good middos. It is a pre-requisite to its observance. We find that the majority of kinyanim in Avos with which the Torahcan be obtained are regarding good middos. For example, “erech apayim,” ”lev tov,” and “sameach bechelko.” Half of the forty eight kinyanim are connected to good middos. The only way we can connect with Hashem and his Torah is if we act with the middos of Hashem. The Gemara in Shabbos, daf kuf lamed gimel, amud bais explains that the word “ve’anvehu” stands for ani vehu domim – Hashem says Bnei Yisroel and I must be similar.

It was integral for Bnei Yisroel to receive the derech eretz and good middos at Har Sinai to enable them and their descendants to become a vessel that could receive and learn the Torah Hakedosha.

May we be zocheh to Torah with Derech Eretz.

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