Being There: Mishpatim 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you prepare to be both physically and mentally present at an important moment? Is it easy for you to do so, or do you need to do specific actions so that you’re ready.

As God invites Moses to ascend Mount Sinai, God specifies that Moses’ full presence is just as important as God’s:

The Pitch: “Adonai said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and wait [be] there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teachings and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them.’” – Exodus 24:12

Swing #1: “There is an apparent difficulty here. If Moses came up on the mountain, he would already be there, so why would God also bother to specify, ‘and be there?’ But from this apparent redundancy we find proof that even one who strains himself to ascend onto a high mountaintop, and is indeed able to reach the summit, it is nevertheless possible that he is still not there. Even though he may be standing on the very peak itself, his head may be somewhere else. The goal, you see, is not merely to ascend but also to be there, to be actually present there, and nowhere else – and not to be going up and down at the same time.” – Menachem Mendl of Kotzk

Swing #2: “This is the order of events here. First, Moses entered into the mist, near to the radiance of the radiance of the Divine (Exodus 24:2). Then Moses left, and went to the people to tell them all that God had commanded (24:3). At that time, all the elders and leaders left Mount Sinai, and came to Moses. They thought that God Himself would teach them the commandments, just as He had proclaimed the Ten Commandments. They therefore begged Moses, ‘You go and hear the words. We will remain here, ready to obey everything that you say in God’s name. We do not have the power to hear God’s words, lest we die’ (20:16). Moses then went with them to the people, and told them everything, to which they responded, ‘We will do and we will listen’ (24:7). After that, God told Moses, ‘You alone come up to Me to the mountain. I will give you the Torah, and you will teach it to them.’” – Nachmanides

Swing #3: “At this point in [Parashat Mishpatim], Moses presumably wrote the Ten Commandments on parchment to deposit in the ark of the covenant. The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments are referred to only later in Exodus 24:12 and 31:18. In any event, this is clearly not a reference to the Pentateuch.” – Arthur J. Bellinzoni, The Old Testament

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand what it is like for Moses to be fully present at Mount Sinai? Why is it especially important for Moses to be paying full attention at Sinai as opposed to the other important events that happen throughout his lifetime? Does God need to specify to Moses that the experience at Sinai is an especially important moment? How good are we at identifying the key moments in our lives?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are so proud of our Sisterhood, and each year, we are more and more impressed on Sisterhood Shabbat, which is led and run entirely by our female congregants. Please be here Saturday starting at 9:30AM to support them.

The Big Inning at the End: Sometimes, even the great players are caught not paying attention. When Detroit Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker traveled to Minneapolis to participate in the 1985 All-Star Game, he forgot to bring his uniform. Shortly before gametime, he purchased a Tigers cap and jersey at a souvenir stand, and then took a black marker to draw his uniform number on the back of the jersey. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long – his uniform number was “1”.

Shabbat Shalom!