Rashi explains the phrase "He found them in a desert region,"
to mean that G-d found the Jewish people to be "faithful to Him in the desert, for they took upon themselves His Torah, kingdom and yoke."
Why does Rashi specify three things with regard to the acceptance of the Torah - His Torah, kingdom and yoke? Why not simply state - as he does in other places - that the Jewish people accepted G-d's Torah? Also, "kingdom" and "yoke" are seemingly one and the same, as the commonplace expression, "the yoke of [the heavenly] kingdom" would seem to imply. Why does Rashi divide them into two?
Rashi's commentary on "He found them..." is a continuation to his remarks on the previous verses, where he explains that the sinful nations were not destroyed because "His nation" was to descend from them. Rashi goes on to state that "His nation" refers to Ya'akov, who had threefold merit: his own, that of his father Yitzchak and his grandfather Avraham.
However, Ya'akov was only one individual; how can he be referred to as a nation? Rashi therefore goes on to explain that the present verse, "He found them..." continues the theme of the previous verse: Ya'akov's threefold merit extended to his children, the entire Jewish nation, for we have the threefold merit of accepting "His Torah, kingdom and yoke."
The explanation is as follows: "His Torah" is something that can be understood by the intellect. Thus, even the performance of mitzvos that is part of "accepting His Torah" does not stress the acceptance of G-d's decrees, but rather of those commandments that can be apprehended by the individual performing them.
The individual's acceptance of G-d's "kingdom," however, does include acceptance of G-d's decrees, for this is like accepting a king even if one does not understand his reasoning.
Accepting G-d's yoke, however, is much more profound: Not only do we accept the King's decrees, but we subsume our very beings to Him; His yoke is constantly upon us.
Herein lies the superiority of accepting His yoke over accepting His kingdom: Mere acceptance of kingdom does not negate the private life of the individual. This is similar to subjects accepting a physical king, whose power only extends to those matters directly related to the kingdom. Accepting "His yoke," however, is similar to a slave's commitment to his master, having no personal life at all, for his master's yoke is forever upon him.
These three things were accepted by the Jewish people at Sinai: They not only undertook to obey the dictates of the Torah and to accept G-d's kingdom, but they also accepted His Yoke, to be eternally subservient to Him.
This also explains the connection between these three things and the Patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, for each of the Patriarchs distinguished himself with one of these three qualities:
The distinguishing factor of Ya'akov was his study of Torah - "He sat in the tents [of study] of Shem and Eiver."
Avraham, on the other hand, distinguished himself in making G-d's kingship over the entire world known to all.
The bearing of a yoke with no sense of personal freedom at all was the distinguishing quality of Yitzchak, in line with the explanation of Rashi that his binding upon the altar conferred upon him the sanctity of a sacred offering wholly dedicated to G-d.
The revelation of this sacred threefold quality within the Jewish people at the time they accepted the Torah was, however, of a temporary nature. It will be fully and eternally revealed with the speedy coming of our righteous Moshiach.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Ha'azinu 5749
- (Back to text) Devarim 32:10.
- (Back to text) See Rashi on Devarim 33:2.
- (Back to text) Quoted also by Rashi in Vayikra 20:26.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, p. 126ff.
- (Back to text) See Bereishis 25:27 and commentary of Rashi. See also commentary of Rashi at the conclusion of the portion Toldos.
- (Back to text) See Bereishis 21:23 and commentary of Rashi. See also his commentary to Bereishis 24:7.
- (Back to text) Ibid., 25:26; 26:2.