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עם נבל ולא חכם

O’ base and unwise people. (32:6)

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The Torah is criticizing Klal Yisrael for being an am naval, base people, and v’lo chacham, unwise. Ramban quotes Rashi who comments that they forgot the good that Hashem had done for them. They were unwise in realizing the good and bad, the consequences of their ingratitude. He then quotes Targum Onkeles who renders the phrase (critique) in a manner which begs elucidation. Naval – ama d’kablu Oraisa, “A nation that received the Torah.” Ramban explains that Onkeles translates naval as being related to navol tibul, “You will surely become weary” (Shemos 18:18). Thus, the Torah is intimating that Klal Yisrael is a nation that wearied itself in intense fulfillment of the mitzvos of the Torah. (They observed the Torah, but they considered it a burden.) They are unwise in not realizing that Torah observance is good and for their own benefit.

We are to derive from Onkeles, as explained by Ramban, that Moshe Rabbeinu’s stark foreshadowing of what lay in store for the nation, their egregious behavior in angering Hashem, their overt transgressions, are all the result of a weariness with the Torah. How are we to understand this? Horav Henach Leibowitz, zl, explains that, indeed, there is no grey area with regard to Torah appreciation. One either values the Torah, acknowledges its worth and, thus, studies it with intensity, fiery passion, love and joy – or he becomes weary of it. One who begins to indicate a weariness in his relationship with Torah is on the path to infamy: idol worship; and a baseness of self that reflects itself in his total demeanor. Limud haTorah, Torah study, must be an endeavor that one enjoys, about which he is excited and passionate. One who does not demonstrate such an attitude indicates by his disconnect that Torah has little value to him. Sadly, his weariness from Torah will drive a wedge between him and Hashem. The Torah is what connects us. Without it, we just drift away.

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