In this week’s parsha, Parshat Yitro, the Jewish nation comes to Mt. Sinai a few days before God is going to give them the Ten Commandments. Chapter 19, verse 2 states that “they encamped in front of the mountain”.
The verb “encamped” is written in the singular form, VaYichan, instead of the plural form we’d expect, VaYachanu. One can answer that since the subject Yisrael, in the pasuk, can be read as meaning “the nation of Israel” – a verb in the singular fits that subject, the nation.
Our sages, however, in a famous midrash teach us something from this singular verb: They encamped “as one person, with one heart”. This expresses the unity that the Jews had achieved at this point in their travels.
Why do you think this unity, being highlighted here at this moment, was so important - and probably a prerequisite for the giving of the Torah?
We need to remember that the Jewish nation was being “hired” by God to be “a light unto the nations”. In this parsha God states quite explicitly that the nation will be “a kingdom of priests and a separate (i.e. holy) nation”. Just as the priests in our nation serve God on our behalf and help connect us to God, so too we as a nation will fill that role vis-à-vis the nations of the world.
Present these questions as “table talk”:
When doing a job as a team, the members need to be united. What behaviors do you think should be components of a united team? (Hint: Think about sports teams, work places, families)
Hint: respect, patience, empathy, cooperation, shared visions, ideals and priorities etc.
How can a team/group balance the “togetherness” and “one-mindedness” along with each member’s talents, interests and needs?
Have you ever had to deal with that tension? What groups are you part of, and how do you feel the togetherness but also your own individuality?
Pretty amazing that this can be said about a nation of approximately 2 million people!! How are we, as a people, doing on this front nowadays?
Bracha Krohn has been a Jewish educator in Cleveland, Jerusalem and Efrat. She currently lives in Israel with her husband and three children. Her contribution, "Table Talk," is based on the ideas she and her husband, also an educator, discuss with their children around their weekly Shabbat table.