The Jewish year is an ever-fascinating interaction between
the recurring holy days with their universal themes that
speak to us across the millennia and all of the varied and
variable elements of our communal and individual lives. Each
year we take what we have gained and lost, what we have
earned and learned, and approach Sinai once again to receive
the Torah and rededicate ourselves and our lives to the word
of Hashem. Each year we accept it anew, but we are really not
the same people who received the Torah last year, but a new
and different folk who come to the holy mountain for that
Chazal compare the radiance of Hashem's influence on the
world to a single light source that can appear so different
depending on the filters that are interposed between the
source and the recipient. If the filter is, for example, red,
then the source itself will appear to be red, and to be
emitting a red radiance.
In the same way, but ever so much more complex, the radiance
of Sinai is filtered by our communal experiences and by our
individual state each year as we experience the Zman Matan
Toraseinu. The light is the same, but how do we receive
Have we grown this year? Have our insights matured and
deepened? Can we receive the Torah at a deeper and richer
level than in the past?
What about those around us? What about our families, our
friends, our acquaintances, our fellow Jews? Have we
neglected them -- or have we ensured that they have become
larger and better vessels to receive the Torah? We all
benefit when any one of us benefits for we are all one, and
an increase for one is an increase for all. This is
especially so with regard to Torah, which required the unity
of purpose that Klal Yisroel displayed in Midbar
Sinai, when they encamped "as one person with one heart."
This is certainly the time to emphasize and recall the
importance that Torah has for us as individuals and as a
community. As Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch writes, "Our summer
will come when the fire of Sinai becomes our sun."
(Collected Writings, Volume I, p. 277)
We can take steps to ensure that Torah is central to
ourselves and to those closest to us, but it is very far from
the center of the rest of the world, and even the rest of the
Torah is the key to the persistence of the Jewish people. Rav
Saadia Gaon said that we are a people by virtue of the Torah
and this is certainly no less true in our day, even when we
are privileged to live in Eretz Yisroel. What is it that
brought us back from all over the world if not the common
bond of Torah?
Who is a Jew is the question that is asked all over the
world. They say that the American Jewish community is 5.5
million strong, but that is based on letting each individual
decide for him or her self whether he or she is Jewish. The
number of halachically Jewish people in America is much
smaller, and the number of Jews who truly accept the Torah
every year is vastly smaller -- but this is the core Jewish
population that will preserve the Torah and the Jewish people
in the difficult times ahead.
We must pull ourselves together. How did we manage to make a
collective covenant? Uvo'u kulom bivris yachad, when
we all said na'ase venishma together.