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The 19th chapter of the book of Exodus describes this final week leading up to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Analyzing the Torah’s account, the Talmud pieces together the following chronicle of events for these six days—the first through the sixth of Sivan of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE):

1 Sivan: The Children of Israel encamp at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses did not say anything at all to them that day, since they were exhausted from the journey.

2 Sivan: Moses ascends the mountain, and brings back the message that G‑d desires to designate the Children of Israel as His chosen people. (The second of Sivan is accordingly marked in our calendar as Yom HaMeyuchas, “The Day of Designation.”)

3 Sivan: G‑d instructs Moses to fence in Mount Sinai, marking the boundaries where everyone is to stand when G‑d reveals Himself upon the mountain.

4 Sivan: The people are instructed to sanctify themselves in preparation for the giving of the Torah, by suspending marital relations and immersing in a mikvah.

5 Sivan: Moses builds an altar at the foot of the mountain, and seals the covenant between G‑d and Israel. The entire people proclaim, “All that G‑d commands, we shall do and we shall hear.”

6 Sivan: The giving of the Torah. G‑d reveals Himself to the entire nation and communicates the Ten Commandments.

A puzzling item in this account is the fact that on the first of Sivan “Moses did not say anything at all to them, since they were exhausted from the journey.” From the day they departed Egypt, the people had been eagerly awaiting the most important event in their history—their receiving of the Torah from G‑d. Our sages tell us that they literally counted the days (hence our annual practice of “counting the Omer” during the weeks that connect Passover to Shavuot). Does it follow that on the very day they arrived at Mount Sinai, they would do nothing at all in preparation for the great day?

At Sinai, the divine wisdom was revealed to man. Obviously, the human mind cannot attain the divine wisdom on its own; it that must be given to it by G‑d Himself. So, although G‑d instructed us to study His Torah, desiring that human intellect should serve as the vehicle by which we apprehend His truth, a crucial prerequisite to Torah study is the mind’s total abnegation of its ego. Only after it has voided itself of all pretension that it is capable of attaining the truth of truths on its own, can the mind become a fit vessel to receive it. In the words of the sages, “An empty vessel can receive; a full vessel cannot receive.”

So, the day on which “Moses did not say anything at all to them” was an integral part of their preparations for receiving the Torah. This was the day on which they undertook the most “exhausting journey” of emptying their souls of intellectual vanity and making themselves fit receptacles for the divine truth.

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Discussion (4)
June 11, 2015
Re: Source
The source for this essay appears to be Likutei Sichos vol. 28 p 7
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
June 9, 2015
source
can you please clarify what the actual source of this essay is?
Anonymous
February 5, 2010
The Empty Vessel
Regarding the line "... a crucial prerequisite to Torah study is the mind's total abnegation of its ego. Only after it has voided itself of all pretension that it is capable of attaining the truth of truths on its own, can the mind become a fit vessel to receive it. In the words of the Sages, 'An empty vessel can receive; a full vessel cannot receive.'" ... I would only comment that an empty vessel (I'm assuming you mean "mind") also cannot evaluate, so don't keep it too empty. Gather ye up from the wellsprings of wisdom to evaluate what others want to put into your vessel.
Harold Braunstein
Brooklyn, NY
chabadmanhattanbeach.com
February 3, 2010
Fitting Vessel
That is probably why the poor, the broken-hearted, the strangers, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and all the marginalized of society are very close to G-d's heart -- because they, inadvertently, abnegated their ego that they became fitting vessels of G-d's mercy, compassion, and truth. Their cries are always heard from Above. Very insightful article. Thank you and G-d bless you!
Rodolfo Carlos Rabonza
Sherman Oaks, CA