Our dog, Pip, is a sheep dog, and he has a natural herding instinct. Whether he is playing with dogs, children, or sheep, he instinctively begins to run round and round to gather them into a group. Pip was born on a sheep farm, and occasionally visits his breeder, sees her sheep and immediately gets to work.
There was a “Pointer” playing with Pip. He never went hunting in his life, but, even while running and playing, if he sees a squirrel, he runs close, lifts his tail straight up in the air, and raises one paw to point to the animal. It’s his instinct. When a Retriever sees the Pointer pointing, he runs to the Pointer, and waits for one of the silly humans to kill the animal pointed to by the Pointer so that he can retrieve it.
Instinct is powerful. We chuckle over a dog’s powerful instincts, but we often forget to observe our own. I constantly notice the remarkable difference between a mother’s and a father’s instinctual responses to a child falling or crying. We all have powerful instincts but we do not always pay attention.
“He took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and they said, “Everything that God has spoken, we will do and we will hear!” (Exodus 24:7) Moshe read the stories of Bereishit to the people, and they finally understood that God did not want them to say, “We will do,” but “We will do and we will relate!”
God wanted the people to understand that their response to Sinai was instinctive; it was part of their essence ever since the time of the Patriarchs. God wanted Israel to appreciate that Torah speaks to our deep seeded instincts, it nurtures them, it heightens them, it empowers them to the point that whatever we “do,” can instinctively be transformed into, “We will relate.”
They stood at Sinai to acknowledge their natural instincts, just as we do each Shavuot.
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