This week’s parashah starts with Moshe Rabbeinu’s father-in-law, Yisro, coming to the Jewish camp with Tziporah, Moshe’s wife, and his two sons. Moshe Rabbeinu goes out to meet him, and tells him all about the events of the past couple parshiyos! Yisro is very excited about all that Hashem has done for the Jewish people, and then he offers Moshe Rabbeinu some advice in handling how he judges the Jewish people.
Upon Yisro’s suggestion, the judging system is reformed, with Moshe Rabbeinu at the head and qualified judges in levels beneath him to answer the Jewish people’s questions. Yisro then returns to Midyan, where he lives.
Finally, the Jewish people arrive at Har Sinai, Mount Sinai, the famous humble little mountain where the Torah is given!
Hashem tells Moshe to tell the Jewish people to prepare themselves, for in three days will be the giving of the Torah! The Jews sanctify themselves, wash their clothing, learn and watch their actions in preparation to receive the Torah.
On the sixth of the month of Sivan, in the midst of thunder and lightning and the shofar (ram’s horn), Hashem comes down to Har Sinai, in front of all the Jewish people. He tells Moshe to warn the Jewish people once more not to ascend the mountain where Hashem is resting His presence.
After warning the people, Moshe comes back up, and Hashem teaches the Jewish nation the Ten Commandments. After the first two commandments, the people beg Hashem to tell Moshe the rest so he can relay them to the people, as the experience of hearing straight from Hashem is too powerful for them. So Hashem does tell Moshe the rest of the commandments in front of the Jewish people, and then Moshe tells the people.
1. I am Hashem 6. Do not murder
2. You may not have any other gods 7. Do not commit adultery
3. Do not say Hashem’s Name in vain 8. Do not steal
4. Remember Shabbos 9. Do not bear false witness
5. Honor your parents 10. Do not covet
Along with the Ten Commandments, Hashem also gives Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish people all of the Written Torah (the Chumash) and all of the Oral Torah, which includes any and all valid commentaries on the Torah since the day of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. Hashem instructs the people in the specifics of a few more laws, and with that the parashah leaves us off in the middle of the Sinai desert until next week!
Wow! If ever there was a loaded parashah, this is certainly one! There isn’t even anywhere to start to talk about all the special commandments we’re given in this week’s parashah. I’m going to share with you the story of an absolutely gorgeous song about Shabbos that I’m listening to right now, The Lonero Family by Eli Nathan on Destiny I. (I must mention that even listening to this song was inspired by Mrs. Libber!)
Hashem tells us that Shabbos is “os he l’olam” – an eternal sign – of the Jews’ unique relationship with Hashem.
There was a family that lived in Spain in the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Even though it was almost impossible to be an observant Jew, not to mention an observant Jewish family, in Spain at the time, there were many families, such as the Lonero family, that kept Shabbos and many other mitzvos/commandments in secret. On the outside, they pretended to have switched to Christianity, but inside they were really loyal to Hashem and His Torah.
The Lonero family had a special Shabbos song that they always sang on Shabbos, and the promise they all made to each other – no matter what happened, they would remember that they were Jews. Any time one of their children would hear a note from the song, they would be instantly transported to their parents’ secret Shabbos table. When Emmanuel was eight and Miriam was ten, the family was discovered on a Friday night during their Shabbos meal. The children were taken away to Christian schools so they would forget their heritage and Hashem.
Miriam, however, refused to cooperate with the Christians’ plans. Even years later, she would not give up her beliefs. She was sentenced to death by the Inquisition and was in prison awaiting her death sentence when a priest came in on what was slated to be her last night.
Miriam looked up, ready to fight another wave of Christian theology, and cried out. “Is that you, my brother? What have they done to you?”
Emmanuel explained that he had heard about a stubborn Jewess named Miriam who wouldn’t give up her faith and had come to see if it was she. “I remembered a promise I once made…” Their voices blended in harmony, singing their family’s ancient Shabbos tune.
The Lonero family’s Shabbos table in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is reputed to be the most beautiful experience around, with Shabbos songs and family stories dating hundreds of years back in history…
After all, that is the power of Shabbos. That is the beauty of this sacred tradition that our people has been guarding for thousands of years without a break.
I can’t tell you whether this particular story is true, but it certainly did happen in families who made it through the Spanish Inquisition. I encourage you to check out the song – it’s stunning! You can buy it here.
Shabbos certainly is one of my favorite parts of being Jewish.