In the Summer 2002 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books:
- Emunei Am Segulah by R. Allan Jacob and R. Moshe Kravetz
- Off the Couch by Dr. Jacob L. Freedman
- Bedtime Reading for Briskers by R. Ephraim Meth
Emunei Am Segulah
Arguably, the revelation at Mount Sinai is the most important passage in the Bible. However, despite its central role, the narrative is confusing. Is Moshe ascending the mountain or is he already there? And when did he go down? The Gemara (Shabbat 86a) tries to piece together the story for each of the seven days between the Israelites’ arrival at Mount Sinai and the forging of the covenant (Exodus 19–24) but leaves much unexplained. One modern scholar characterizes the narrative as reflecting the confusion and overwhelmed state of the people at that monumental time.
To add to the difficulties of this passage, Rashi believes that the order presented in the text is not entirely chronological, with chapter 24 occurring before chapter 20. In contrast, Ramban believes that the text generally flows chronologically. Seforno takes a middle approach, explaining chapters 19 through 24 as chronological, but then placing the sin of the Golden Calf (chapters 32–35) immediately afterward, before the command to build the Tabernacle (chapters 25–31).
To bring clarity to this important topic, which has received surprisingly little treatment, Dr. Allan Jacob and Rabbi Moshe Kravetz teamed together to present the detailed story of the giving of the Torah. The first half of Emunei Am Segulah takes the reader day by day, step by step, from Rosh Chodesh Sivan through the seventh day of that month, and then period by period until the tenth of Tishrei, which would become Yom Kippur. On Rosh Chodesh, the Israelites reached Sinai (Exodus 19:1-2). On the sixth day of Sivan, they received the Torah. On 17 Tammuz, Moshe descended from the mountain and broke the first Tablets. On 10 Tishrei, Moshe descended with the second Tablets. In between these famous dates, much of the story occurs. The authors present a chronology of events, clarifying the text based on several commentaries, particularly Seforno.
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