This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota.
Can you think of the most important event in your life? Or perhaps just one of the most important events in your life?
Maybe it was the day you graduated, the day you got married, the day your grandmother passed away. These are potentially life changing experiences that one can never walk away from. You are a different person now. You have an eternal impression in your psyche that cannot be removed.
This coming week is the anniversary of the most world changing event in the history of mankind. It is also one of the least well-known Jewish Festivals on the Jewish calendar. More people know about Chanukah(which is of Rabbinic origin), than know about next week(which is ordained by the Torah).
The festival I am referring to is Shavuos, or Shavuot(literally “weeks”). The event is the revelation at Sinai.
What is so significant about this event? What exactly happened?
Most people have the image of Moses going up Mount Sinai, while the Jewish people wait below, and 40 days later, he comes down with the 2 tablets.
In fact, this was a National revelation. The entire Jewish people heard G-d speak. Approximately 3 million men, women and children were witness to Hashem revealing His Will to the world. Judaism is based on the fact that the G-d revealed Himself not just to one individual, who then related the story to us, but rather Hashem “showed” Himself to the whole nation.
The significance of such an event cannot be underestimated.
Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld. Do not remove this memory from your heart all the days of your life. Teach your children and your children’s children about the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horev [Mount Sinai]…
God spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.’ (Deut.4:9-13)
‘You have been shown in order to know that God, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven he let you hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words amid the fire.’ (Deut. 4:32-36)
Not with our forefathers did God seal this covenant, but with us—we who are here, all of us alive today. Face to face did God speak with you on the mountain from amid the fire.’ (Deut. 5:3-4)_
This is such a dramatic claim that no other religion in the history of mankind has ever attempted to duplicate it. No one can claim a national revelation if it didn’t happen. Imagine me telling you that yesterday you and I heard G-d speak. If it didn’t happen, you’re not exactly going to buy into anything else I’m going to tell you.
Upon this concept rests the legitimacy of the Jewish religion. If it happened, then the Torah is the Will of G-d. If it didn’t, then Judaism is nothing more than a bunch of nice customs, to be relegated to a “cultural” experience and nothing more. Lox on Sunday, and matzah ball soup on Friday night.
For those interested in a more in-depth analysis of this topic, to determine whether Sinai is history or a legend, click here. Happy Shavuot!