A Little Big

April 29, 2018 at 3:02 AM , , ,

“…And G-d spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying…” – Vayikra 25:1

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל משֶׁה בְּהַר סִינַי לֵאמֹר – ויקרא כה, א

The Midrash relates that the great mountains of the world all vied to be chosen as the site where G-d would give the Torah to Bnei Yisrael. Yet G-d selected the smallest of all the mountains, Mount Sinai, for the Giving of the Torah, teaching us the value of humility and modesty (Midrash Tehilim 68:17). The question arises: Mount Sinai was indeed the smallest mountain, yet it was still a mountain. If the Torah was to be given on a site that symbolized humility, why not give the Torah in a plain or, better yet, in a valley? A valley is certainly more “humble” than even the smallest of mountains. Evidently, humility was not the only quality sought for the site of the Giving of the Torah; G-d desired to give the Torah on a mountain, albeit a small mountain.

The paradoxical “small mountain” symbolizes that what the Torah demands is modesty, not meekness. Certainly, the primary criterion to receive the Torah is humility. This is emphasized in our Shmoneh Esrei prayers, where we precede the request for G-d to “open my heart in your Torah” with the supplication “let my soul be like dust before all,” i.e., humbleness is the key to success in Torah study. Yet coupled with our humility, we must have pride and confidence in our observance of G-d’s will. Thus, the Code of Jewish Law opens with the directive, “Do not be ashamed in the face of mockers;” a Jew must be confident and determined in his observance of the Torah, not fazed in the slightest by adversity or scorn.

The Torah was therefore given on Mount Sinai, the smallest of the mountains, but not in a plain or a valley. To teach us that both of these traits are crucial to receiving and implementing the Torah. We must be humble in our view of ourselves as individuals, but staunchly proud of our lifestyle of Torah and mitzvah observance.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 1 pp. 276-278

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