by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
When the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai, the entire nation was unified. The lesson is clear for us today.
Throughout the Torah, the Jewish people are always referred to in the plural form. This is evident in Exodus 19:2, which says the Jews “journeyed (vayi’su)… arrived (vaya’vo’u)… encamped (vaya’chanu)” — all references are in the plural.
But then this verse ends with a surprise: Vayichan sham Yisrael neged ha’har — “and the Jews encamped (singular) opposite the mountain.”
In coming to Sinai, the Jewish people are referred to in the singular form. Rashi says this emphasizes how the entire nation encamped “with a single goal, and a singular desire.”
Unity was a prerequisite for Sinai. An event with such earthshaking consequences could only be possible with unity.
How were the Jews able to achieve such unity at Sinai?
In Exodus chapters 15-17, the Jews are having a hard time. There’s no water — and they complain. Then there’s no meat — and they complain. They’re so upset that Moses is afraid they’ll kill him! Then again no water. The Jews are fighting and bickering terribly.
Then Amalek came and battled Israel. An outside threat shook us. What happened next? The Jews encamped in unity at Sinai.
When Jews are threatened as a people, we get the message loud and clear. We know we are one. In the Six Day War, all Jews stood together. In the struggle for Soviet Jewry, all Jews rallied together. When we’re attacked, we become one.
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