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When the Israelites were about to accept the Torah, they stated נעשה ונשמע - We will do (then) we will hear. In other words, the Israelites knew what they had to do even before they heard what G-d told them to do.

I had heard and read that all* Jews were physically present at Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah - You, my kids, and me - everyone. So everyone agreed to follow this "Do before hearing" concept in life.

I think that this is an adage and behavior that was a Jewish fundamental. Jews act before they hear what they need to do.

For some reason, though, I can't pass this idea to my kids. I have to remind them to pick up their clothes, take out the garbage, etc. When I ask them why they didn't do it, they say that I never told them! Aren't they supposed to know what to do before they hear me tell them? What happened to this adage obedience that my kids can't do their chores on their own?


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closed as off-topic by Monica Cellio Mar 27 '16 at 4:38

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    Seriously, though, I do apply this concept in parenting. If I tell t he kids to do something, and they ask why, I tell them that I'll answer why after they've done it! – Isaac Moses Mar 17 '16 at 15:38
  • @IsaacMoses "Because I said so", hopefully works, but often, it doesn't. Besides, my Q asks for a slightly "historical" context. – DanF Mar 17 '16 at 15:45
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You're over-generalizing. Clearly the Israelites don't always do before hearing, or Moshe would never have had to rebuke them for doing (or not doing) it wrong. But we see that this stiff-necked people is a near-constant burden for him, from Egypt all the way through his final address before his death. And he had the clear backing of God, complete with a physical sign. And after him we have many prophets who had to rebuke the people for centuries; clearly Israel wasn't heeding them either. So if Israel wouldn't do what they were supposed to for God or for His prophets, why would you expect them to do so for you? (Sad, I know, but this is the world we live in.)

When Israel said na'aseh v'nishma they were talking about God -- not Moshe, the prophets, their parents, or anybody else. And they knew what they had to do even before listening because it was written in God's torah, which God put in their minds and wrote on their hearts -- wrote, so they could read and didn't have to wait to be told.

I don't know how well it would work for someone who is not God, but maybe you should try writing them notes? Or writing your instructions on their bodies in indelible ink?

  • Y'know, that last bit of advice is one of the smartest ideas I've heard in a while. One slight problem is that they lose the notes. And writing the message on their hands would cause them to make a mess of my walls :-) – DanF Mar 17 '16 at 16:59
  • Sharpies are pretty quick-drying. Just sayin'. (Though you will eventually run out of places to write if you're not careful.) – Monica Cellio Mar 17 '16 at 17:43

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