Taking the plunge

May 26, 2017

Torah Thought

Three thousand, three hundred, and twenty-nine years ago, Moshe (Moses) announced to the Jewish people that He would be ascending Mount Sinai to receive the Torah for the Jewish people. The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people protested. They said, “We want to see our G-d; we want to receive the Torah directly from its author.” Moshe transmitted the Jewish peoples’ beautiful request to G-d. G-d agreed and gave Moshe detailed instructions on how the people must prepare and purify themselves for a three-day period. The people rejoiced at the news and enthusiastically threw themselves into the task of preparing to literally ‘meet their creator’ and receive his Torah.

By the third day, everything was in place. The purification process was completed and at dawn trumpeting and thunder were heard. The presence of G-d began to descend on Har Sinai.

Nobody showed up.
Moshe quickly ran back to the camp and spoke to the people. He woke them, comforted them, calmed them, and convinced them to come to Mount Sinai and receive the Torah. Our sages tell us that G-d himself came toward the camp to greet and encourage our forefathers as they gathered beneath the mountain to receive the Torah.

This is very strange. The Jewish people begged for an audience with G-d, but needed to be convinced to attend!

As children, many of us are taught that the Jewish people were sleepyheads—hey just forgot to set their alarm clocks. I don’t think this explanation is sufficient.

We need to consider that the Jewish people had been the chosen people since the times of Abraham and his covenant with G-d. Nonetheless, this was the first time that the people were forced to make a commitment. It could be said that until now the Jewish people had enjoyed a very long engagement. Mount Sinai was to be the wedding ceremony between us and G-d. The Torah was the contract, the rules and the promises that came with the relationship. When it came to actually tying the knot, our forefathers were scared. They were the first (and only) nation in history to enter into a covenant with G-d. Other nations refused the Torah outright but the Jewish people—with a little encouragement from Moshe and from Hashem himself, were able to take the plunge, tie the knot, and make the commitment.

Generations later we have a close relationship with Hashem because our forefathers made that plunge.

Sometimes in order to grow as people and as Jews we need to be strong enough to do something new; to take on something daunting. Often we do not need that strength, because it’s already been done by our fathers and their fathers before them.

—Rabbi Sender Haber, B’nai Israel

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