You know that stubborn, pugnacious, rebellious little grunt-like feeling that wells up in your gut when you hear the word “Don’t … ” at the beginning of a sentence addressed to you?
Have you ever felt it when you read the Ten Commandments—that is to say, the seven of them that begin with “Don’t … ”? If yes, then count me as a friend.
In the Mechilta, Rabbi Ishmael teaches that when the Ten Commandments were heard at Sinai, whenever G‑d said “Do … ,” the Israelites responded “OK, yes!” and whenever G‑d said “Don’t … ,” they responded “OK, no!”
Rabbi Akiva, however, teaches that they replied in the affirmative to every commandment. Even their no’s were expressed as yes’s.
Why was Rabbi Akiva able to see the “yes” hidden in each “no”? As the Rebbe once explained, it’s because he was a baal teshuvah.
A baal teshuvah has been nurtured, during the first part of his or her life, on the habit of resisting, rejecting and rebelling against anything like a “Don’t!” that seems to plop down “from the sky,” as if just to make life difficult and cramp one’s style. But a baal teshuvah has managed, during the second part of his or her life, to turn an ear to the inner positivity of even a “Don’t.”
A baal teshuvah experiences a Divine “Don’t” not as a door shutting one in from the wide world outside, but as a door protecting one from external distractions, and opening up the infinite wealth and countless blessings of being at home.
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team