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The Most Beloved Treasure
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At Mount Sinai, the Almighty`s declaration of love for us was revealed for all to see.

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The Most Beloved Treasure

Translated and Adapted by Braha Bender

 

The purpose of creation was hidden like a jewel in the very first word of the Torah, beraishis. Popularly translated as, “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1), a literal translation of the word b’raishis would be “with raishis” or “for raishis”. What is “raishis”?

Foremost Torah commentator Rashi quotes the Talmud’s explanation. Beraishis means, “Bishvil Yisrael, for the Jewish Nation, who are called raishis (in other parts of the Torah).”

The title raishis teaches us that the Jewish People and their mission constitute the primary, most important reason for the world to have come in to being at all. The creation of the heavens and the earth took place according to a plan conceived of in advance – a plan containing at its heart a mission that only the Jewish People could accomplish.

Are the Jewish People worthy of their honorable spiritual stature? As the Jewish People approached the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, the Almighty stated it plainly: “And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples” (Exodus 19:5). Our status depends on whether we fulfill our mission as outlined in the Almighty’s book of instruction.

From the moment we received the Torah, the Almighty hasn’t stopped showering his affection on us. One of the ways this affection was expressed was through the commandment to build the Mishkan (tabernacle). The Mishkan was intended to turn the one-time event of Sinai into an on-going experience in our lives. The hours of matan Torah (the giving of the Torah) saw the Jewish people rise to spectacular spiritual heights, so much so that the Shechina, the very Presence of the Almighty, was openly revealed. The Almighty’s commandment to build a Mishkan gave us the opportunity to reveal His Presence on an on-going basis.

The building of the Mishkan signaled the Jewish Peoples’ rise to still another stage higher in the intimacy of their partnership with the Creator. One of the ways that this was evident was by the way the Almighty spoke with them in the Mishkan. He spoke with us the way people speak to those they are intimate with – in tznius.

The Hebrew word tznius is usually translated as modesty, but it has entirely different connotations than the western associations with that word. What tznius really means is an emphasis on content instead of packaging: clearing away distractions in order to focus on the heart of the matter. In practical terms, tznius often means privacy.

Maintaining privacy keeps “beloved treasures” safe from greedy eyes that would expose them to danger. It’s not only safety, though, that stands to be lost when tznius is compromised. Sensitive readers will appreciate that the exquisite nature of certain items, ideas, or relationships demands privacy in and of themselves. A delicate loveliness is maintained by tznius which is lost when that item, idea, or relationship is exposed to the masses. Certain statements spoken at a whisper lose something when spoken out loud.

When the Jewish People were promised that they would become “the most beloved treasure of all peoples” that did not mean that they would exceed other nations in their physical number, material wealth, or any of the other “packaging” that can be attributed to a nation. The meaning of the Almighty’s promise was that the Jewish People were to gain an intimacy with Him, a private relationship that would be hidden from others, a relationship other nations couldn’t see in to no matter how hard they tried. Sure, any gentile can see that the Almighty has given us special protection to survive throughout unnumbered attempts to murder our bodies and our souls. But what they can’t see is that indescribable connection every Jew shares with his or her Creator deep inside, accessible any time and any place, a connection that defines our essence and makes us who we are – Jews.

At Mount Sinai, the Almighty’s declaration of love for us was revealed for all to see. Thunder and lightning and trembling mountains – no one could have missed it. The very foundations of the earth shook. But the Mishkan was different. In the Mishkan, the Almighty whispered sweet things in our ears. It was His tznius that indicated how close we were, that the relationship shared between the Jewish People and the Almighty was different: we had been chosen.

In light of all this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish People is compared to the relationship shared between a groom and his bride. The Jewish People’s mission is not a single task out of a long laundry list of to-dos planned on when the Almighty decided to create the world. Rather, our mission is most important because it is most central. By keeping the Torah, we partner with the Almighty Himself.


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