Dottie sent me a text on Tuesday that included a picture of an invoice that the Temple Sinai received from one of our vendors. Dottie's note said, "I have seen Temple Sinai spelled countless ways, but this one takes the cake!" On the invoice, the name of the congregation was spelled "Temple Syanide." I texted back to Dottie, "I wonder which is more upsetting… that they don’t know what 'Sinai' is, or that they don’t know how to spell 'cyanide.'"
No, we are not Temple Syanide. We are named for Sinai, the mountain where God appeared to all the Israelites and pronounced in their hearing the words of the Ten Commandments. In this week's Torah portion (Yitro), the Torah tells us that "…there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of a shofar; all the people in the camp trembled" (Exodus 19:16). The Torah wants to impress upon us what a singular moment it was when God was revealed on Mount Sinai, a moment that would be etched into the memory of humanity forever – and now, people don't even know how to spell it.
So, let's remember the moment of Sinai (of all places, at Temple Sinai!). How do we do that? I think it has to involve a little bit of listening for the sound of that shofar and it has to involve a bit of trembling.
We, as Jews, hear the heavenly shofar call us to pay attention and to take action when we see injustice. God's pronouncement of the Ten Commandments reminds us to stand up against hatred and discrimination, against the perversion of justice. That's how we remember Sinai.
We, as Jews, tremble when we consider the weight of our obligation to raise children who are caring and loving, and we tremble when we consider our own obligation to live for more than gratifying ourselves. That is another way of remembering Sinai.
So, on this Shabbat when we will again hear the words of the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, take a moment to consider what it really means to hear them and to make them a part of your life.
Other Posts on This Topic:
And After the Fire — a Still, Small Voice
Yitro: Science and Faith