Friday, January 21, 2011

Parshat Yitro – Seeing the whole, perceiving the holy.

Parshat Yitro Ex. 19:2 They journeyed from Rephidim, and they arrived in the desert of Sinai, and they encamped in the desert, and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain.

In one verse the text tells us twice that the Israelites make camp. The first time the verb is in the plural: vayachanu bamidbar, “they . . . encamped in the wilderness.” The second time the verb is singular: vayichan Yisrael, “Israel encamped.”

 In Present at Sinai, S.Y. Agnon quotes the M’chilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in reflecting on this verse: “When they journeyed they were divided, and when they encamped they were divided; whereas here it says ‘they encamped (Vayichan) there’ [in the singular, implying that] they had been given to feel a shared kindliness (Hanayah), so that they could love one another and thus be able to receive the Torah.” *

May we fully appreciate how our separate selves are bound up into one interconnected and united whole.
May this understanding of the whole lead us to perceive the holy.


* Source:
S.Y. Agnon, Present at Sinai [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994, p. 52) as quoted by R. Dan Levin at:

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