“Yitro” is one of our most famous portions. It begins with a lesson in management (Chapter 18 of Exodus) and the suggestion by Moses’s father in law , Jethro/Yitro) to delegate the task of organizing and leading the people. Of course, the most powerful and well known aspect of this portion is the giving of the Ten Commandments (20).
In chapter 19 we read a verse that sets the stage for the Commandments as the first verse tells us when the Israelites entered the Wilderness. We are given the time of this event and the
very day that they began this journey. The “Etz Hayim” commentary cites the Hebrew “ba-yom ha-zeh” “as if to suggest that on any day that a Jew accepts the obligations of the Torah, it is as if he or she were, that day, standing at Sinai”. Indeed, a popular comment is that we all were symbolically at Sinai.The Etz Hayim goes on to site Heschel who “distinguishes between the giving of the Torah (“rattan Torah”), which was a one-time event in the Sinai wilderness, and the acceptance of the Torah as an authoritative voice in our lives, which can take place at any time”. (p.436)
I think that speaks to what so many Boomers are now experiencing. For a while many lived life without a sense of the spiritual. As we get older, and the non-material issues of life take hold, we seek answers to life’s questions of life, death, meaning and my place in all of this. Why are so many Boomers returning to serious adult Jewish study? We do not wish miracle stories or myth. We do seek meaningful adult answers to the challenges and issues that confront us as we age. We come and we go in this personal spiritual quest. The text speaks to this in 19:24 when Moses is told to “go down and then return” as if we are being reminded that this search for meaning is never linear. We approach a sense of truth or meaning, retreat from some of it and then return to find greater meaning. And, there is no time frame on any of this. We are never too old to “stand at Sinai”. All we need to do is to have the courage to seek these answers to the issues we confront.
Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.