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Yitro 5783

February 5, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Yitro 5783

If I ask you what is the culminating moment in the history of our People, what would you answer?

Someone would choose the moment when Abraham decides to leave his father's house. It would be something like the beginning of monotheism in the history of humanity. Another could choose the moment when the waters of the Sea of Reeds parted. Someone could even choose the Independence of the State of Israel.

I think that in this parashah we definitely arrive at that time within the rest of time. We arrive at that special time above all in which the People of Israel receive the 10 commandments. Or rather, as it is in the text, the 10 words or statements. The term "commandment" implies coercion and hierarchical obligation, while the term "word" is associated with dialogue, negotiation, exchange. Something to receive while you give too.

However, the Torah presents the revelation of the Ten Commandments almost as a "sound and light" show, which has nothing to do with one of the characteristics of a bilateral negotiation, of a creative exchange and appears rather as a one-way requirement.

“On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder, lightning, a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud horn sound. All the people trembled in the camp... Moses led the people out of the camp and led them to meet God. The people stopped at the foot of the mountain... Mount Sinai smoked, because the Lord had descended in fire. Its smoke rose like smoke from a furnace and the whole mountain vibrated violently.” 

(Shemot 19: 16-18)

This paragraph presents a specific aspect of the delivery of the decalogue and comes to show us that there could be times when we need to show strength, see magic around us, as with the children of Israel leaving Egypt after centuries of oppression.

But today I wanted to stop for a few moments before the delivery at Sinai. When the Kadosh Baruch Hu asks Moshe: “Lech el haam vekidashtem hayom umachar”, go to the People and purify them today and tomorrow. (Shemot 19:10)

What does the text or the Lord mean with this TODAY and TOMORROW?

It is very easy to feel pure and do things well at times like the giving of the Torah. Who wouldn't be moved? It is like when we are on the day of Yom Kippur. It is easy to fulfill mitzvot on that day. We are in the Temple, surrounded by everyone fasting and in spiritual surrender to that moving day.

What would happen to Bnei Israel the day after the handover? Would they remember the mitzvot or would it be like when we leave the theater or the cinema and remember some scenes and return to our daily life, the reality of every day of disengagement?

What happens to us the day after Yom Kippur? In relation to our friends, those who are not so friends, our businesses, our daily attitudes?

Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher and writer from the first half of the 20th century, said that it is not a question of putting aside "the profane" to plunge headlong into "the divine" but of bringing and adding a little divinity to each one of us. our days and our profane actions. And that's what it's all about, sanctifying ourselves for today, for tomorrow for the coming month and for 5 years from now; always. Change our lives by sticking to the mitzvot, our traditions, our Torah to make our days moments with content despite the profane.

Obviously, the Lord's claim would seem to have to do with perpetrating in the image and sound, with the surprise that this must have provoked in the recently liberated People of Israel, a sensation and a commitment of perpetuity.

But let’s make no mistake and make no mistake about the leaders, those of the societies in which we live and those of the State of Israel. Jewish tradition is above all in favor of a personalized and kind approach to the commandments, which frame life and above all do not prevent the exercise of free judgment. We must never accept coercion in any of our decisions to make. In no society should there be. And even in our days of modernity, liberality and progress, it continues to exist. That is also part of the profane that we must fill with divinity and holiness.

May we achieve a meaningful Shabbat Kodesh for ourselves and those we love. And that we manage to change our day to day in mixed moments of profanity and holiness.

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