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Leaving Sinai

Friday, 15 May, 2020 - 11:53 am

There was once a little Jewish girl who was being raised in a home where Judaism was not a premium value. Every summer she would travel to the countryside to spend a few weeks with her grandmother. Grandma was much more traditional. She utilized the time of her granddaughter’s visit to impart her love for Judaism and G-d to the little girl. At the end of her visit, her parents drove up from the city to pick her up. As she was leaving she took a deep breath of the beautiful outdoor air and said “Goodbye nature, see you next summer.” Then she kissed her grandmother and said, “Goodbye Grandma, see you next summer.” Then she kissed the Mezuzah and said, “Goodbye G-d, see you next summer.”

Yesterday, the 20th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, was the day the people of Israel departed from Mount Sinai. They had been there for nearly a full year. During that time they received the Torah, had the Golden Calf experience, obtained forgiveness and received the second set of Tablets, built and dedicated the Tabernacle, and celebrated the first anniversary of the Exodus. They were told that the sign to know that it was time to move, would be the lifting of the Cloud of Glory from above the Tabernacle.

One could view the departure from Sinai in two ways. One would be similar to the little girl and her grandmother. As long as we are at Sinai, under the influence of the Revelation experience, we remain connected and devoted to G-d and what He expects of us. But once we depart, we cannot maintain that elevated state of connection.

The second and more proper perspective is, that leaving Sinai is by the direction G-d (as symbolized by the lifting of the Cloud of Glory). The purpose is not to take us away from the Siniatic impact, but rather for us to take the experience of Revelation and apply it to regular everyday life. In a sense, the 20th of Iyar represents the first full day of our mission as Jews – to transform and elevate our world into a dwelling for the Divine.

When we are at the foot of Sinai, G-d’s presence looms large in everything that we do. When we travel away from Sinai, this becomes our challenge. Our mundane activities must be suffused with a devotion to Hashem. As Proverbs states, “In all your ways you shall know Him.” This theme is reflected in Pirkei Avot, “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.”

When the Cloud of Glory lifted, it led the way, showing the people of Israel in which direction they were to travel. Thankfully, Hashem has given us this same guidance in the form of Torah teachings and inspired Jewish leaders over the generations, who show us the way to maintain the intensity of our connection with Hashem.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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