Matan Torah | Everyone needs a Sinai moment

Matan Torah | Everyone needs a Sinai moment

In they lecture Reuven lays out A Chronology of Matan Torah and discusses the mystery of Moshe’s two sons, Gershon and Eliezer.

A Chronology of Matan Torah

The chain of events surrounding the giving of the Torah is very difficult to follow, because, according to some commentators, the verses are not arranged chronologically, and a number of jumps must be made in order to reconstruct the sequence of events.

The following outline (based on the interpretation of one medieval commentator, Rashi) should help in understanding the order of events:
On Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the first day of the month of Sivan) the Jews arrived at Mt. Sinai. (19:1; cf. Rashi).

Early the following morning, the 2nd of Sivan, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai for the first time. He was instructed to offer the Jews the opportunity of accepting the Torah, and of becoming a holy people. (19:3-6).

That same day Moses descended and assembled the elders and passed on the message. The entire people responded in unison that whatever God says, they will do. (19:7-8).

On the morning of the 3rd of Sivan, Moses again ascended the mountain to bring the people’s response to God. (19:8; cf. Rashi).

On this occasion he was told that God will speak to him from a thick cloud in the presence of the people, which will establish the authenticity of Moses’ prophecy forever. (19:9).

Moses’ descent, as well as his subsequent conversation with the people, is not described in the verses, but is inferred by Rashi from God’s response. The people insist on hearing from God directly (Rashi 19:9).

On the 4th of Sivan, Moses returned to the mountain to bring the people’s request to God. (The latter half of 19:9). This is the same ascent mentioned in parshat Mishpatim, where we learn that Moses, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu, and the elders were all to ascend, but only Moses was to approach the cloud. (24:1-2; cf. Rashi ad loc.).

During this same encounter, God informs Moses that if the people insist on hearing for themselves, they must purify themselves for three days, the 4th, 5th and 6th, in order to receive the Torah on the 6th. In addition, Moses is to instruct the people how close they may approach the mountain during the revelation, and for how long the restriction is to last. (19:1013; cf. Rashi).

Still on the 4th of Sivan, Moses descends, and informs the people of the command to purify themselves for three days. According to Rabbi Yose, Moses interpreted the three days as complete days, delaying the giving of the Torah until the 7th of Sivan. (19:14-15; cf. Rashi).

This is the same conversation with the people described in parshat Mishpatim, when Moses reminds the people of the seven Noahite laws, and the laws received at Mara. The people agree to keep all God’s commandments. Moses writes down all of the Torah from Genesis until this point. (24:3-4; cf. Rashi).

On the 5th of Sivan, Moses builds an altar at the base of the mountain. Offerings are made. Moses reads the book he has written to the people, who respond, “We will do and we will hear”. The blood of the sacrifices is sprinkled on the altar on behalf of the people. (24:4-8; Rashi ad loc. and cf. Rashi 19:11).

On the 6th of Sivan, or the 7th according to Rabbi Yose, Moses leads the people to the base of the mountain. We are informed, parenthetically, that during Matan Torah the people are destined to hear only two commandments directly. As for the others, Moses will speak and God will amplify his voice. (19:16-19: Rashi).

God reveals his throne upon the mountain and summons Moses. Moses is told to warn the people again not to approach the mountain. Moses protests that the people have already been warned. God tells him that he must do so nevertheless. Then he is to return to the mountain. Aaron and the first born – who are the priests at this point – are to approach, each according to his level. (19:20-24; Rashi).

Moses descends and passes on the information. (19:25).

Moses’ return to the mountain, together with Aaron, Nadav, Avihu and the elders, is described in parshat Mishpatim. During Matan Torah, Nadav, Avihu and the elders gazed inappropriately. Their punishment is postponed until another occasion, in order not to detract from Matan Torah. (24:9-11; Rashi).

The giving of the Torah itself, the 10 statements, is in parshatYitro. (20:1-14; Rashi).


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