The end of Parshat Mishpatim tells the rest of the story of what happened at Mount Sinai. In Chapter 24, we learn that Moshe wrote down the words of Hashem and he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, along with twelve pillars corresponding to the twelve tribes. In the next verses (5-7) we read:
And he sent the youths of the children of Israel, and they offered up burnt offerings, and they slaughtered peace offerings to the Lord, bulls. And Moses took half the blood and put it into the basins, and half the blood he cast onto the altar. And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, "All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear."
Rashi explains that these youth were the firstborn, who served in the role as priests prior to the sin of the golden calf. Ramban explains that these youth were not necessarily firstborn, but rather young Jews who were passionate and excited about the Revelation at Sinai and the Giving of the Torah. Moshe provides them with a special role, because this youthful enthusiasm and idealism was an important ingredient in the Jews’ acceptance of the Torah at this juncture. It is after the youth of Israel come on the scene that the entire nation is inspired to say the famous formula of “We will do and we will hear.”
On Wednesday I returned from a 6 day trip to Israel. During my trip I engaged in a number of learning opportunities with some great institutions such as National Library of Israel, Machon PUAH, Eretz Chemdah Institute and Ateret Kohanim. I look forward to sharing with you more about these experiences. But the highlight of my trip was the opportunity to meet with close to 20 of our Young Israel of Hollywood youth who are currently studying in Yeshivot and Seminaries in Israel. It was inspiring to hear about their studies, their plans and their aspirations. These young adults are passionate and idealistic. They have their whole lives ahead of them and I am excited to see how they develop and find their unique paths.
I am a firm believer that we should embrace the times in which we are living; we should not dwell too much on the past nor on the future. Yet, the one time that I look back on with great nostalgia, the one stage of life that I would consider doing over again, is my time learning in Israel post-high school. The challenge for us adults is to remember those feelings of idealism and zeal and find ways to incorporate them into our lives today. This week I had a great reminder of what can be for all of us at every stage of life, by looking at and listening to the optimism, idealism and passion of the young adults of our community.