The Servant of Two Masters
“And now, if you will surely listen to My voice…” (19:5)
Why is it only now after all the plagues and the Exodus that G-d asks the Jewish People to listen to His voice?The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that a Canaanite slave is exempt from the mitzvah of saying “Shma” because he cannot honestly accept the yoke of Heaven (the purpose of this mitzvah) since he already has another yoke — that of his master. A true servant cannot serve two masters. To the extent that he serves one, his dedicated service to the other is lacking. Only now, after breaking the enslavement of Egypt, bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt and raising them far above the Egyptians on eagles’ wings, G-d is the undisputed Master of the Jewish People; and thus only now does G-d seek from the Jewish People their acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven. This should give us pause. How much of our own lives are spent serving “other masters”? The masters of honor, of wealth and prestige, of frivolous entertainment and needless worry? To fly with the eagles a Jew can have no other master than G-d.
- Sources: based on the Shem MiShmuel in Mayana shel Torah