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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Re-Experiencing Sinai

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

As we left Mount Sinai we began building a sanctuary in the desert.

Sinai and the Tabernacle were not independent concepts. The Ramban taught that the purpose of the Mishkan was to replicate Sinai. The experience of millions of Jews at Sinai had to remain with us as we wandered through the desert and for all future generations. The Jews left Sinai; but Sinai can never leave the Jew.

For the entire forty years we wandered with the Tabernacle in the desert; when we built the Mishkan in Shilo; when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem; when Ezra brought the Jews back to Jerusalem; - it was all to re-experience Sinai. Even as we build synagogues in our own communities we do so to bring Sinai into our lives.

What happened at Sinai? What experience are we trying to replicate? Sinai was the place where G-d gave us the Torah - but certainly no one comes to Synagogue Shabbat morning, or even to the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem expecting G-d to give us the Torah!

The answer to this question is that although all the Torah we have was given to us at Sinai (according to Rebbe Akiva) the giving of the Torah was by far not the only event, or I dare say, even the main event that took place at Sinai.

What happened at Sinai? At Sinai G-d spoke to our people. At Sinai G-d showed His abundant love for the Jewish people. At Sinai G-d rested His countenance upon the Jewish people. A Sinai G-d gave us peace.

When G-d blew the Shofar at Sinai he breathed a new spirit into our souls. He refreshed our fortitude and strengthened our moral fiber. At Sinai we became a people.

The Tabernacle, the Beit HaMikdash and our own houses of prayer are the place we Jews go to come together with G-d.

Today our synagogues are multi-functional. They are gathering places for simchas and if need be funerals. They are places where we can go to hear intellectual presentations on topics ranging from the history of art and music in the Diaspora to the UN mission in Iraq. They are places where we raise money for Israel, for Yeshivos, for our poor neighbors, and for victims of terror. They are places where Torah can be studied day and night. Of course, they are houses of prayer.

Yet I ask myself daily and I ask you too - is it Mount Sinai? Do we find everything in our synagogues except for G-d? When you go to synagogue do you find the Shechina dwelling there?

Is the synagogue a place where G-d says, “My eyes and My heart are there forever”?

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