It must have been a very long day. Throughout the book of Devarim, one of the most frequently recurring words is ‘hayom‘ — ‘today’. Moshe repeats it over and over again, and the impression the reader gets is that all of these speeches are happening on this one historic, momentous day.
What makes this day so important? Is it because of all of the Torah that Moshe taught the people? Or because these are the last speeches of the Jewish people’s leader? Rashi has a surprising answer with a critically important message.
“I have heard that on that day, Moshe gave the Torah scroll to the Levites…all of Israel came before Moshe and said: Our master Moshe, we, too, stood at Sinai and received the Torah! Why are you giving the members of your tribe control of it? Tomorrow they’ll come and tell us that the Torah wasn’t given to us, only to them!”
It was a great day for Jewish chutzpah. Can you imagine accusing the very transmitter of Torah of wanting to deny the people access to it? But the greatness of Moshe expresses itself in his reaction. This is the moment that he’s been waiting for! The people have finally come into their own- “today, you have become a nation!”
“God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, ears to hear, until this day.” When God tries to reveal himself to the people at Sinai, it’s an audiovisual experience they can’t handle. They beg Moshe to step in and be their intermediary. Moshe unsuccessfully tries to convince them otherwise, but now, finally, they’ve come around. They are all ready to create a covenant with a God who doesn’t discriminate based on sex, age, or status. Judaism is staunchly democratic. “The crown of Torah lays at corner. Anyone who wants can come and take it.”
There have always been those who try to ‘protect’ the Torah by limiting access to it to the elites, with the best of intentions. But the expectation of the Torah and the task of every Jew is to refuse this limitation with holy hutzpah, to resist the easy path of abdicating responsibility for our religious lives to someone else. Every Jew has the right and the mandate to stand up to the greatest rabbinic power and say: This is my Torah, and you can’t take it from me.
This is a blog sharing reflections on the daily perek of Tanach in the wonderful 929 project. Learn more at 929.org.il