By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
This week’s Sedra relates what is perhaps the most significant episode in the history of Am-Yisroel – Kabbolas HaTorah (the receiving of the Torah). While the Torah pays much attention to the actual receiving of the Luchos (Tablets), it gives equal consideration to the steps leading to that moment. The Torah starts off by telling us ויחן-שם ישראל נגד ההר – Klal-Yisroel encamped facing the mountain (Mt Sinai). Interestingly, the Torah describes this encamping in the singular, and not in the plural usually reserved for describing a nation. Underscoring this shift to the singular and making it even more peculiar is the fact that the Torah had started a bit earlier in the plural form. The Targum Yonoson adds in his translation בלב מייחד כל – with in all encompassing unified heart. Rashi injects the same idea כאיש אחד בלב אחד – as one man with one heart. To this Rashi then adds yet another element, pointing out that while this encampment was indeed one of unity, none of Klal-Yisroel’s other encampments possessed such unity — all others were with fights and frictions.
A few Psukim later, Klal-Yisroel answers in the affirmative the query as to whether it wants to accept the Torah. The Torah prefaces the People’s answer by telling us: ויענו כל העם יחדיו – and the entire nation answered in unison. Once again we see this idea of Klal-Yisroel’s intense unity in close association with Kabbolas HaTorah
What was it about Kabbolas HaTorah that fostered so much unity amongst Klal-Yisroel? Why, on the other hand, were there no other encampments that had any unity? Why were all other encampments marked by friction and contention? And furthermore, why did Rashi feel the need to point out this rather stark contrast between the encampment of the receiving of the Torah and all others?
From the fact that there was no other encampment that shared this unity it would seem that the nature of Am-Yisroel is one of contentiousness, of not getting along with one another. Thus if Klal-Yisroel is a group of people who don’t generally get along, logic would dictate that what unified them wasn’t their personal feelings for one another but rather their feelings for the moment – for the event.
Klal-Yisroel encamped at Har-Sinai in order to accept the Torah, and Klal-Yisroel answered Hashem’s asking it if it wanted to accept the Torah in complete unity. It would seem that receiving the Torah was something that the entire People was equally interested in. Am-Yisroel answered in unison כל אשר דבר ה’ נעשה – whatever Hashem says we will do. It would seem that the underlying unity was the yearning for Dvar Hashem.
While Klal-Yisroel may lack unity the one commonality amongst all of us is the yearning for Dvar Hashem. Perhaps if we would more often focus on our yearning for Dvar Hashem we would come to many more instances of National unity.
A very warm Good Shabbos.
Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski