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Religion

Three million Jews, but one heart

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“And they came to the Sinai Desert, and they encamped in the wilderness, and there Israel camped before the mountain.”

The festival of Shavuot celebrates receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. The exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, and the many tests in the desert, culminated in the arrival of more than three million Jews to the foot of this historic mountain.

Let’s try to picture the scene in our minds – remember the days before coronavirus? Think of a visiting star who has come to South Africa to perform, and seats are limited to the select few who bother to camp outside hours before the performance. Think of the poor old people trying to get to their seats before being knocked down by excited youth. Think of the peak-hour traffic you have to sit in just to make it on time. Think of the squashing, the shouting, and ultimately the anger. And at this concert, there are only a couple of thousand people. Can we even begin to imagine the total chaos at the foot of Mount Sinai? Three million Jews!

Interestingly though, the Torah uses the singular verb for encamped – vayichan instead of vayachanu. Our sages explain that at Mount Sinai, there was so much peace and love for one another, the Jews were “like one person with one heart”.

Receiving Torah can work only when all Jews are unified and there’s harmony and peace among us. Perhaps that’s why the zodiac sign for the month in which Shavuot falls (Sivan) is Gemini-twins, siblings who love each other as much as they love themselves.

Let’s remember that the problems and shortcomings we see in our friend and the faribles we have with family members may very well be a mirror image of our own faults and downfall. Let’s take the lesson of Shavuot’s unity, and strive to love our fellow Jew.

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