The Jewish nation stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, preparing for the divine Revelation through which they would receive G-d’s Torah. In the midst of the preparations for this momentous event, Moshe warned the people in the name of G-d that they dare not draw near to the mountain. The area permitted to them was clearly defined; anyone who defied G-d's command would be punishable by death:
And you shall set bounds unto the people round about, saying: Take heed to yourselves, that you go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it; whosoever touches the mount shall be surely put to death.
The severe consequences of ignoring this prohibition indicates that it was not merely an ordinance intended to ensure that the mass of people remain in their assigned places for the duration of the proceedings. The people were forbidden to draw too near in order that the events at Sinai achieve their purpose. The nation was about to become acquainted with G-d’s Torah, but first, they were given an object lesson about how we must relate to the Torah and guard its sanctity, namely, by observing the limitations set around Mount Sinai before G-d descended upon it.
The Torah was given to Israel, who studied it assiduously, day and night. They occupy themselves continuously with studying its laws and lessons. Its words shape the history of the Jewish People and mold their character. Over three thousand years have gone by since then, and throughout the ages, there have always been Jews whose unswerving loyalty to Torah remained undiminished.
Who “owns” this Torah, if not the Jewish People? Who understands its secrets and its profound message, if not Israel’s scholars who devoted their days and nights to its sacred words?
If so, it might appear only natural that the nation’s greatest sages would be enfranchised to adapt its teachings to the spirit of the times, to make adaptations as dictated by the needs of the new generations. Shouldn’t they protect it from becoming outdated, so that it would always be fresh and appealing to the younger generation?
But that is not what G-d commanded. Even before He descended on Mount Sinai to bestow His precious gift upon His chosen nation, G-d warned us:
Do not presume to draw too near:
And the L-rd said unto him: 'Go, get you down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the L-rd, lest He break forth upon them.'
G-d warned the people: Remember to maintain the appropriate distance between yourselves and your G-d, who is giving you His Torah!
True, the Torah is now ours, but it was bestowed upon us by G-d. It is not the product of a fallible, human mind, but the creation of our Maker, and we have no right to contemplate changing a single letter of its laws.
History has demonstrated the miraculous durability of G-d’s Word. Over the past three millennia, during which not a single letter or dot of the Torah was altered, the Torah remained with us, just as it was handed down to us at Sinai.
Its words are as relevant to our times as they were to the generation of freed slaves who first received it. Torah, the creation of the Master of all Time, is above and beyond the limits of time and place.