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Forty Eighth Day of the Omer

APPROACHING SINAI


Soon it will be time to get ready. After several weeks of initial, rather aimless wandering after Pesach it will be time to learn some new rules. Time to work out who we really are and what we believe in and how we should behave to each other, to others and to God. Moses will go up that mountain, we will stay and await his return. What will he bring us?

There are many jokes about the Revelation on Sinai, a sign of how uncomfortable we often are with it, with the idea that one human being could somehow encounter at a specific spot this vast universal God, a God who could not be named and should not be seen or portrayed but who could lay down regulations as to how they should be worshipped and obeyed?

For the Rabbis it was important therefore that the location should remain vague and unknown and in a land that could not be claimed by anyone; significantly, it was Christian monks who established St. Catharine's monastery and declared that one specific mountain out of the many in the area was the correct place for pilgrims to come (and make donations). For Jews, Sinai is not a place but a concept, a peak where God could come and speak to Man. When one sees the fates of Mecca or Rome – or even Jerusalem – one can see how wise it was to avoid any close geographical identification, any opportunity for unscrupulous rulers to try to claim the holy site or to profit from it.

At the end of his life, Moses will climb another mountain, will encounter God again, and this time will be laid to rest – once more, in an unknown location, a tomb that will not become a focus of pilgrimage and commercialism. It is better so.

Did Moses suffer from Sinaisitis? Was Moses twice as clever as Einstein, because he carried TWO Stones? What happened to the missing 11th to 15th. Commandments? There are many attempts to be jocular about this rather frightening idea that there IS a God and that GOD is concerned with how we should behave........

Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild

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