Tradition Today: Standing at Sinai

19.05.2012                      27.Ijar. 5772                    Behar-Beschukotai; Tag 42 des Omer

Judentum:

Tradition Today: Standing at Sinai

The question that Shavuot presents to us, that each of us must answer in our lives is the same one that was presented at Sinai.

Where were you just before Shavuot 3,322 years ago? You probably don’t remember – truthfully, neither do I. But according to Jewish tradition we were standing together at the foot of a mountain in the Sinai peninsula known as either Sinai or Horeb – a mountain whose location is unknown today (Midrash Hagadol to Deut. 29:9, Shabbat 146a). Tradition says that at that time, not only were the newly released slaves from Egypt there but they were accompanied by the souls of all Israelites that would be born in the future. You might even have been standing under that mountain since the Sages understood the phrase “They stood b’tahtit hahar” (Exodus 19:17) not as “at the foot of the mountain” but as literally “underneath the mountain.” According to one midrash, God held the mountain over their heads and threatened: “Either accept the Torah or this shall be your burial place!” (Shabbat 88a). According to an even older midrash, the mountain was held over them as a magnificent huppa for the wedding between Israel and God – and the Torah was the ketuba (Mechilta Bahodesh 3). That is the interpretation I prefer….