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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Taking the Plunge

By Rabbi Sender Haber

Three thousand three hundred and seventeen years ago, Moshe announced to the Jewish people that He would be ascending Har Sinai to receive the Torah for the Jewish people. The Jewish people protested. They said: “רצוננו לראות את מלכנו” – we want to see our G-d; we want to receive the Torah directly from it’s author. Moshe transmitted the Jewish peoples’ beautiful request to Hashem. Hashem agreed and gave Moshe detailed instructions on how the people must prepare and purify themselves for a three-day period. The people rejoiced at the news and enthusiastically threw themselves into the task of preparing to literally ‘meet their creator’ and receive his Torah.

By the third day everything was in place. The purification process was completed and at dawn and shofaros and thunder were heard. The presence of Hashem began to descend on Har Sinai.

Nobody showed up.

Moshe quickly ran back to the camp and spoke to the people. He woke them, comforted them, calmed them, and convinced them to come to Har Sinai and receive the Torah. Our sages tell us that Hashem himself came toward the camp to greet and encourage our forefathers as they gathered beneath the mountain to receive the Torah.

This is very strange. The Jewish begged for an audience with Hashem, but needed to be convinced to attend!

As children we are taught that the Jewish people were sleepyheads – they just forgot to set their alarm clocks. This does not explain what happened to the initial excitement , the statement of ‘retzoneinu lir’os es malkeinu- we want to see our G-d’.

The Jewish people had been the Chosen people since the times of Avraham and the Bris Bein Habesarim. Nonetheless, this was the first time that the people were forced to make a commitment to Hashem. It could be said that until now the Jewish people had enjoyed a very long engagement. Har Sinai was to be the wedding ceremony between Bnai Yisroel and Hashem. The Torah was the contract, the rules and the promises that came with the relationship. When it came to actually tying the knot our forefathers were scared. They were the first (and only) nation in history to enter into a covenant with G-d. All of the other nations refused the Torah out right but the Jewish people – with a little encouragement from Moshe and from Hashem himself were able to take the plunge, tie the knot and make the commitment.

Generations later we have a close relationship with Hashem because our forefathers made that plunge.

Sometimes in order to grow as people and as Jews we need to be strong enough to do something new; to take on something daunting. often we do not need that strength, because it’s already been done by our fathers and their fathers before them.

We can stay up studying Torah on Shavuos with no apprehension or fear because our grandfathers already jumped that hurdle and showed us how wonderful a close relationship with Hashem can be.

At a wedding there is a minhag for the Chossan to step forward to greet the Kallah as she walks down to the Chuppa. Every Friday night we sing the words “Lechah Dodi Likraas Kallah” asking Hashem to please come out and greet us and encourage us once again just as He did at Har Sinai and bring Moshiach speedily in our days.

Material Related to Shavuos:
The Defining Moment
Threee on Makom Torah

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