By Rabbi Ami Neuman
וידבר ה’ אל משה במדבר סיני…
“And G-d spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert…” (Deuteronomy 1:1)There is an argument among the sages in the Talmud (Shabbos 86b) regarding the exact date of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. One opinion claims that it was given on the sixth day of Sivan, while another, Rabbi Yosi, asserts that it was on the seventh. This argument is based on conflicting views of the day that the month of Sivan was declared that year by the Jewish High Court (who determined the new month based on the new moon). According to Rabbi Yosi, the month was declared on Sunday, but nothing was taught to the Jewish people until the following day as they were “too weary from the journey.”
This explanation is puzzling. Why were the Jewish people so tired? They were surrounded on all sides by the Clouds of Glory; these clouds supported them, like “kings being carried upon their beds” (Medrash, Parshat Beshalach). Thus, the Jews expended no effort in their travels. Their weariness, therefore, is quite perplexing.
The Shem Mishmuel commentary explains that there were a number of people who did not merit staying within the Clouds of Glory. Due to their sins, these people were expelled, forced to travel outside of the clouds’ protection. It was these outcasts that were weary from their journey, and it was for them that the Jewish people waited an entire day to receive the Torah.
An obvious question arises. Now, after all those years, through the struggles and the drama, from our descent into Egypt and our miraculous exodus, we finally made it, ready, as one people, to accept and forever affirm our commitment to G-d by receiving the Torah… and everything just stops? All for the sake of a relatively small number of people, sinners no less, to lie down and get some rest!
Rabbi Avrohom Schorr explains that the Torah is not meant only for the sages. It is not held captive atop some ivory tower waiting to be rescued by those who have spent their entire lives pure from all sin, delving deeply into its teachings. Rather, the Torah is meant for everyone! Every single Jew can access Torah, can learn it and live by its words, and no Jew should be denied that opportunity.
This episode is a valuable source of encouragement to anyone who believes he or she may have strayed too far from G-d to ever reconnect with Him. There is no such thing as a Jew who does not belong. While the person who has strayed may have some repairs to make in his relationship with G-d, he remains an important component of the Jewish people — so vital that the revelation at Sinai was delayed for others in the same boat.
As we prepare for the upcoming Shavuot holiday, the sacred time when all Jewish people received the Torah, we would do well to pause for a moment and reflect on the important role we all play in the chain of Jewish tradition.