The Sinai Experience

June 17, 2024

The Mount Sinai experience, a moment that forever shaped the identity and destiny of the Jewish people, is etched into our collective Jewish consciousness. As we stood at the foot of the mountain, its peak shrouded in thick clouds, thunder echoed through the valleys, and lightning illuminated the sky. The ground trembled as a powerful voice, more profound than anything we’d ever heard, filled the air. Against this awe-inspiring backdrop, we accepted the Torah.

The sages teach that the soul of every Jew was present at Mount Sinai, obligating Jews for all time in the covenant made with God. The acceptance of the Torah was not limited to one generation but must be passed down for eternity. The Bible commands us in several places to teach its words to our children. For example, Deuteronomy 6:7 and Deuteronomy 11:19 emphasize the importance of passing down the laws and their details to the next generation:

However, another source offers a different perspective. Deuteronomy 4:9-10 instructs us:

These verses do not simply tell us to teach the laws; they command us to recount the day we stood before God on Mount Sinai. But why is this important? What is the significance of sharing this experience, and how does it relate to the command to teach the Bible and its laws to our children?

Delving into the essence of these commands, we uncover a profound truth about our heritage and how we are to pass it on. The verses in Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 focus on intellectual transmission—teaching the verses, the laws, and their intricate details. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity and continuity of our traditions. Our children must know what is required of them, the commandments they must follow, and the values they must uphold.

However, Deuteronomy 4:9-10 adds another layer to this transmission. It emphasizes the importance of conveying the experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. This is not just about knowing the laws; it’s about feeling the awe, reverence, and profound connection to God that our ancestors felt on that monumental day. The giving of the Torah was not a mundane event—it was accompanied by fire, lightning, and thunder. It was an overwhelming sensory experience that left an indelible mark on those who witnessed it.

This aspect of Torah transmission is crucial because it reminds us that our relationship with God should be vibrant and dynamic. Teaching the Bible is not merely about reciting facts or enforcing rules; it’s about igniting a passion and enthusiasm for our faith. When we share the story of Mount Sinai, we are not just recounting history; we are bringing to life the intense spiritual encounter that defines our connection to God. This ensures that the next generation remains connected and committed.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes that this is the kind of education he received from his mother: “Most of all I learned that Judaism expresses itself not only in formal compliance with the law but also in a living experience. She (i.e., my mother) taught me that there is a flavor, a scent, and a warmth to mitzvot (commandments). I learned from her the most important thing in life – to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of His hand resting on my frail shoulders.”

Bible education should go beyond the classroom or study hall. It should permeate our homes and daily lives. We should create moments of spiritual elevation and inspiration, where the presence of God is deeply felt. This could be through heartfelt prayer, joyous celebration of the holidays, or discussions that highlight the beauty and relevance of God and the Bible in our lives.

When our children see that our commitment to God is not just an obligation but a source of joy and inspiration, they are more likely to embrace it fully. They need to witness the fire and passion in our eyes, the genuine excitement in our voices when we speak of God’s wonders. This makes a relationship with the Divine come alive for them, transforming it from a set of rules into a living, breathing way of life.

Let us strive to be living examples of this vibrant faith, passing on a legacy that is as full of life and fire as the day we stood at Sinai.

The Hebrew Bible is a very big book – actually, 24 books, to be exact. Studying it can feel very overwhelming. Where do you start?


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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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