|Matan Torah - The Great Unifier
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 11:42:41 PM
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At the end of Parshat Mishpatim the Torah states, "The entire nation replied in one voice, we will do all the things that G‑d told us." In the very next verse, we find that Moshe built an ALTER and 12 PILLARS, as it says, "Then he built an ALTER next to the mountain and 12 PILLARS for the 12 Tribes of Israel" (Shemot 24:4).
Why did Moshe construct both an ALTER and also 12 PILLARS at Mount Sinai? This question is especially problematic, because although the AVOT did build PILLARS to serve G‑d, but after G‑d gave the Torah, building PILLARS to serve Him became prohibited. What then, was the reason for Moshe building 12 PILLARS for the 12 Tribes of Israel, when after Matan Torah this would be forbidden?
The Rashbam states that the 12 PILLARS were to symbolize that all 12 components of the Jewish Nation accepted the Torah. By setting up 12 separate MONUMENTS, Moshe demonstrated that each of the 12 Tribes accepted its own special unique mission as part of G‑d's Holy People. As the famous song goes “NO ONE CAN DO IT MY WAY.”
The Shem MiShmuel explains that the ALTER and the PILLAR represent two different facets of serving G‑d. The PILLAR consists of one stone, but the ALTER is constructed of many stones. The single‑stoned PILLAR symbolizes the service of an individual, while the many‑stoned ALTER alludes to the service of G‑d of the entire community as a whole.
An ALTER can only function properly if all its stones are carefully arranged and aligned with one another. Otherwise, the entire structure will crumble. So too, the entire Jewish People must stand together and merge into a single unity of communal Service of G‑d. As another famous song goes, “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.”
Perhaps this explains why PILLAR based worship became prohibited after the Torah was given to Israel. As long as Yaakov Avinu and his descendants had not yet merged into a single nation, worship at a one stoned PILLAR was permitted. However, once the Jewish People received the Torah, we became obligated to serve G‑d as a United Nation, consisting of 12 Tribes, rather than as individuals.
Thus, when G‑d gave us the Torah, at Mount Sinai, we were, "Like one person with one heart" (Rashi, Shemot 19:2). If only we can attain that level of UNITY today thereby speeding up the Final Redemption post CORONA.