Contact Us

Too Much Sinai?

Too Much Sinai?

 Email

Thirty-seven1 days before his passing, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, Moses began his final series of talks to his beloved people—words of rebuke, inspiration and hope. In this first talk, he related the story of their leaving Mount Sinai after being thereWhat can be better than camping at the foot of Sinai? for almost a year. At that point, before the sin of the spies, they were headed straight for the land of Israel.

Moses stated:

The L‑rd our G‑d spoke to us in Horeb (Sinai), saying, “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and journey, and come to the mountain of the Amorites and to all its neighboring places, in the plain, on the mountain, and in the lowland, and in the south and by the seashore, the land of the Canaanites, and the Lebanon, until the great river, the Euphrates River.”2

G‑d said, “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.” In other words, “Enough already, you’ve had too much of Sinai.” This seems quite strange. Wasn't the revelation at Sinai the most important event in our history, the foundation of our religion and the basis of all of the Torah? How can one have “too much” of Sinai? What can be better or more spiritually uplifting than camping at the foot of Sinai?

Sinai was a great place to be. The revelation at Sinai was the most formative experience of our people. But there came a moment when dwelling at Sinai became a distraction. “You’ve been here too long,” said G‑d. “It’s time to face the real world.” It was time to take the Sinaic inspiration and bring it to day-to-day life in the land of Israel.

Rashi, the primary commentary of the Torah, offers a homiletic interpretation of the verse:

I have given you much greatness and reward for your having dwelt at this mountain: you made the Mishkan, the Menorah, and the [other] furnishings; you received the Torah; you appointed a Sanhedrin for yourselves, and captains over thousands and captains over hundreds.3

Rashi interprets the verse to mean, not that the Jewish people had spent too much time at Sinai, but rather, they had achieved much at Sinai. But what about the most important achievement? What about experiencing the Divine revelation? Moses himself spends a good chunk of next week's portion describing the revelation at Sinai:

For ask now regarding the early days that were before you, since the day that G‑d created man upon the earth, and from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens, whether there was anything like this great thing, or were the likes of it heard? Did ever a people hear G‑d's voice speaking out of the midst of the fire as you have heard, and live?4

When Moses told the Jewish people to pack their bags and depart the camp at the foot of Mount Sinai, the people were surely unhappy. They certainly preferred to remain in spiritual paradise, and they must have feared the possibility of losing inspiration, vision and spiritual resolve. Moses reassured them. He told them not to worry. He told them that after all the time spent at Sinai, they certainly had the tools to continue their journey to the Promised Land.They preferred to remain in spiritual paradise Therefore, when Moses enumerated the achievements at Sinai, he mentioned not the revelation itself, but rather the Menorah, the study of Torah and the court system. These were symbols, not of an earth-shattering, awe-inspiring experience, but of a Divine wisdom being implemented into daily life. Moses understood that Sinai was spiritual bliss, but to fulfill the purpose of creation, to connect heaven and earth, the Jewish people needed to follow specific steps, they needed to introduce measured, consistent spirituality into their lives.

Moses taught an important lesson. Yes, the occasional spiritually intense moment is critical. Yes, once a year we need to experience a Yom Kippur, a day on which we are like angels in heaven. But that it is not enough. The question we ask ourselves is, not how often do we feel as spiritual as we do on Yom Kippur, but rather, what specific action will we take today to ensure that our life is imbued with the light of the Torah's teachings?5

Footnotes
1.
See Seder Olam Rabbah, Devarim, ch. 10.
5.
Bases on the teachings of the Rebbe, Likutei Sichot, vol. 24, Devarim, sichah 2.
Rabbi Menachem Feldman serves as the director of the Lifelong Learning department at the Chabad Lubavitch Center in Greenwich, Conn.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics