Preparing to Receive the Torah
On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai.
And Moshe went down to the people and spoke to them.
The Israelites travel from Rephidim to the Sinai Desert, where they encamp opposite the mountain. God tells Moses to remind the people of all He has done for them thus far. He tells them if they hearken to His commands, they will be most precious to Him: a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The people commit to following in God’s ways.
God then tells Moses that He will speak to him from a cloud on the mountain, so that the people will hear and believe forever in the Revelation at Sinai. He tells Moses to instruct the people to sanctify themselves for two days and wash their clothing, and on the third day He will descend upon the mountain. He also warns the people to stand clear of the mountain itself, because anyone who touches it at this time, until the shofar (ram’s horn) sounds, will die.
The day of the Revelation, there was thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud covered the mountain. The sound of the shofar could be heard, getting louder and louder. Hashem descended towards the mountain and called Moses to ascend. He tells Moses to again warn the people against approaching the mountain, then tells him to return with Aaron.
In calling the Children of Israel a kingdom of priests, the Israel Bible points out, God is giving the nation a responsibility to serve as a light unto the world, guiding the nations by example. Although the giving of the Torah at Sinai was an experience shared only by the Israelites, its impact is felt by the entire world.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
What do you think is the purpose of the elaborate preparations for the giving of the Torah? If the people couldn’t approach the mountain in any case, why did they need to sanctify themselves ahead of time?