Rabbi David Walk
There have been a small number of outstanding people who used to approach young adults at the Kotel and offer them a Shabbat meal or a Yeshiva experience. This was the beginning of a Torah life style for many of these people in search, the 'backpackers of the Wall'. Besides paying homage to their untiring efforts, I want to mention one of the famous quotes they would sometimes use: You look familiar to me; I must remember you from Har Sinai. This ingenious 'pick up' line is based on a powerful Midrash that, indeed, all Jewish souls stood together at the foot of Har Sinai in the presence of God during the remarkable revelation that momentous morning 3300 years ago. So, what was so special about the incident at Sinai that we all had to be there?
First of all, the concept that every Jewish soul was present at Har Sinai is based on a Talmudic statement: When Moshe told the Jews 'but with those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and also with those who are not here with us, this day (Deuteronomy 29:14)' refers to the Jews physically standing at Har Sinai and to all future generations and converts (Shavuot 39a). This idea is very powerful. However, I'm not sure what it means. It could mean that since souls are not physical entities they are not bound by time, so they could have been there, too. Or, perhaps, like many Midrashim, it's not meant literally. It's a metaphor explaining to us how we are the eternal extension of our ancestors who literally stood there and accepted the covenant of Torah. Don't know. My own thinking changes and wavers over time. In reality, I have another question.
Why Har Sinai? Why did the Torah hint and the Sages state explicitly that the universally shared experience of our people should be the epiphany at Sinai? I mean, it's not a bad candidate. It is the basis for our acceptance of Torah and mitzvot, but I would have chosen another event. Last week, we read that at the splitting of the Sea the Jews proclaimed, 'THIS is my God (Exodus 15:2)!' The use of the demonstrative pronoun zeh, led the Sages to make the following unbelievable statement, quoted by Rashi, 'The lowest rungs of society saw more at the Sea than Yechekel saw when the heavens opened before him (Mechilta).' In other words, the clearest view of God ever achieved by mortals was at the shore of the Sea. Shouldn't that be the experience we all want to share? Wasn't that the pinnacle of Divine revelation? We must explore to find that unique quality of the revelation of Sinai that made it the most worthy event for universal participation.