Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly (Knesset).
So begins Pirkei Avos, the Ethics of the Fathers tractate of Mishnah. Why are we told this? What does it all mean? Well, as Tevye liked to sing,
On Shavuos day, Parshas Yisro from Sefer Shmos is read, containing the עשרת הדיברות. After leaving Egypt and months of traveling, the Children of Israel were encamped in the Midbar by Har Sinai. Moshe was instructed to tell them God’s plan to make them a holy nation unto Him, a Kingdom of Kohanim-Priests, provided they keep the Covenant He would make with them.
In “The Ten Utterances” Almighty God Himself speaks to all the People, amidst great glory of clouds, Shofar blast, and thunder. He gives them a unique set of commandments which begins with a declaration of His Oneness, and basically outlines a code of His Covenant. These “Ten Commandments” were only a portion of God’s whole Torah. Moshe received the Oral Tradition, תורה שבעל פה from God as well, to fully understand the תורה. Am Segulah, a treasured nation Am Yisroel was to be, for they had witnessed and experienced Divine revelation unlike any nation on earth.
We know that later in Parshas vaEschanan of Sefer Devarim, Moshe repeats the עשרת הדיברות to the Jewish People. This time, Moshe reminds them that these commandments were not only given to the people at Har Sinai directly by God, but to all the Jewish People, even those who were not physically present. This was to be a guide for future generations, to sway any doubts that might arise. HaShem would always keep them as an Am Segulah.
Today, Jews around the world in their homes and synagogues, are observing and transmitting to their children the Mitzvos of the תורה, as at the time of the giving of the תורה on Har Sinai!
Many people nonetheless question the origins and authenticity of the Torah. Some say the Torah isn’t Divine, and that it’s antiquated. There are deep philosophical reasons that could be given for disputing that.
B’Ezras HaShem, I’d like to answer with something simple. I have a feeling many of you will recognize this too.
I remember being in shul on Shabbos when I was very young. The Torah leining was stopped and there was a hush in the shul. As I watched, I saw some people looking over the Torah. A new Torah was brought out and it had to be scrolled to the appropriate place of the reading. I asked Mom and she explained that every letter of the Torah must be exact. If any letter is smudged or missing or there’s a question about it, it could potentially make that Torah “Possul”- not Kosher for use. A proper Torah scribe, Sofer, would have to fix it. That wasn’t the full answer though. You see, she went on to tell me that every Torah is exactly the same as the next, no matter where in the world, and it’s always been that way for generations. Essentially, if there is a doubt in the writing, then letters could be misread. If that were to happen, the meaning of the words of the Torah would also be changed. Once it has been changed, it is no longer the Torah directly given to us by God.
That’s how I know we are following the very same Torah Moshe Rabbeinu brought down to us from God on Har Sinai. Every single letter must be just as God Himself commanded! Each סופר סת״ם, scribe, meticulously and devotedly follows strict guidelines to ensure every single letter of the תורה is properly inscribed.
There are doubters and critics. But our Torah is the same as when Moshe transmitted it to Yehoshua… Just as it says in פרקי אבות:
מֹשֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻֽׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻֽׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרֽוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶֽסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה
Tevye knew there was something to sing about!
Chag Shavuos Sameach!