The Giving of the Torah
According to Rashi
Prepared by Rabbi G. Rubin
The chain of events surrounding the giving of the Torah is very difficult to follow, because, according to Rashi's understanding, the verses are not arranged chronologically, and a number of jumps must be made in order to reconstruct the sequence of events. The difficulties begin with the fifth aliya of Yisro (the sequence of events surrounding Yisro himself is a separate issue), and continue until the end of Ki Siso.
The following outline should help to understand the order of events:
- On Rosh Chodesh Sivan the Jews arrive at the wilderness of Sinai. (19:1;
- Early the following morning, the 2nd of Sivan, Moshe goes up Mt. Sinai for
the first time. He is instructed to offer the Jews the opportunity of accepting
the Torah, and of becoming a holy people. (19:3-6).
- That same day Moshe descends and assembles the elders and passes on the
message. The entire people respond in unison that whatever HaShem says,
they will do. (19:7-8).
- On the morning of the 3rd of Sivan Moshe again ascends the mountain to bring
the people's response to HaShem. (19:8; cf. Rashi).
- On this occasion he is told that on the day of Matan Torah HaShem
will speak to him (i.e. to Moshe alone) from the midst of a thick cloud. The
people will bear witness to this event, and this will establish the authenticity
of Moshe's prophecy forever. (19:9; according to Lavush Ora, but see Gur Aryeh
for a different understanding).
- `Moshe's descent, as well as his subsequent conversation with the people
is not described in the verses, but is inferred by Rashi from HaShem's
response in verse 10 (see paragraph 8 below). The people seem to have protested
against hearing Matan Torah second hand from Moshe, and insisted on hearing
it from HaShem directly. (Rashi 19:9).
- On the 4th of Sivan Moshe returns to the mountain to bring the people's
request to HaShem. (The latter half of 19:9).
- During this same encounter, HaShem informs Moshe that if the people
insist on hearing for themselves, they must purify themselves on the 4th and
5th in order to receive the Torah on the 6th. In addition, Moshe is to instruct
the people how close they may approach the mountain during the revelation,
and for how long the restriction is to last. (19:10-13; cf. Rashi).
- This is the same conversation with HaShem that is mentioned in Parashas
Mishpatim (24:1-2; cf. Rashi ad loc), where Moshe is told that he, Aharon,
Nadav, Avihu, and the elders are all to ascend on the day of the revelation,
but that only Moshe will approach the cloud.
- Still on the 4th of Sivan, Moshe descends, and informs the people of the
command to purify themselves on these days. According to Rabbi Yose, Moshe
interpreted days mentioned in paragraph 8 as two complete days in addition
to the 4th, the delaying Matan Torah until the 7th of Sivan. (19:14-15; cf.
Rashi and Shabbos 87a).
- This is the same conversation with the people described in Mishpatim, when
Moshe reminds the people of the Seven Noachide Laws, and the laws received
at Mara. The people agree to keep all of HaShem's commandments. Moshe
writes down all of the Torah from Bereishis until this point. (24:3-4; cf.
- On the 5th of Sivan Moshe builds an altar at the base of the mountain. Offerings
are made. Moshe reads the book he has written to the people, who respond,
"We will do and we will hear." The blood of the sacrifices is sprinkled
on the altar on behalf of the people. (24:4-8; Rashi ad loc. and cf. Rashi
- On the 6th of Sivan, or the 7th according to Rabbi Yose, Moshe leads the
people to the base of the mountain. We are informed, parenthetically, that
during Matan Torah the people are destined to hear only two commandments directly.
As for the others, Moshe will speak and HaShem will amplify his voice.
- HaShem reveals his throne upon the mountain and summons Moshe. Moshe
is told to warn the people again not to approach the mountain. Moshe protests
that the people have already been warned. HaShem tells him that he
must do so nevertheless. Then he is to return to the mountain. Aharon and
the first born, who are the priests at this point, are to approach, each according
to his level. (19:20-24: Rashi).
- Moshe descends and passes on the information. (19:25).
- Moshe's return to the mountain, together with Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and the
elders, is described in Mishpatim (24:9). This is the assent foretold above,
paragraph 9. During Matan Torah, Nadav, Avihu and the elders gaze inappropriately.
Their punishment is postponed until another occasion, in order not to detract
from Matan Torah. (24:10-11; Rashi).
- Matan Torah itself, the pronouncement of the 10 Statements, is in Yisro.
All of the 10 were said in a single word, then HaShem repeated and
explained each one individually. (20:1-14; Rashi).
- The people heard the first two explained, but then were overwhelmed and
requested that Moshe hear the rest and relay them to the people. (20:15-17;
Rashi ad loc. and cf. Rashi 19:19).
- At this point the people back off. Moshe alone enters into the thick cloud
(20:18), just as HaShem had said would happen (see paragraph 5). (Moshe's
descent after hearing the 10 Statements is not described in the text).
- After Matan Torah, Moshe is commanded to approach HaShem, and to
remain with him to receive the stone tablets. Moshe ascends, accompanied part
way by his disciple, Yehoshua. Aharon and Chur are left in charge. (24:12-14).
- At this point, six days are mentioned, during which the cloud is present
on the mountain, before Moshe is invited to enter. Rashi brings two opinions:
a) These are the previous six days, the seventh being the day the 10 Statements
were pronounced, after which he is invited to enter the cloud. Or b) These
Six days begin after Matan Torah, and comprise the first six days out of the
forty. (24:15-18; Rashi).
- This ascent takes place on the 7th of Sivan. (Rashi 32:1). Moshe remains
on the mountain for 40 days and nights. (24:18).
- During these 40 days Moshe receives the laws commanded at the end of Yisro
and the bulk of Mishpatim. (20:19 until 23:33; see Rashi on 31:18).
- The end of the 40 days is described in Ki Sisa. When he is finished speaking,
HaShem gives Moshe the tablets. (31:18).
- On the 16th of Tammuz the people come to the mistaken conclusion that Moshe
is overdue. The Golden Calf is made. Aharon declares a festival to HaShem
for the next day. (32:1-5; Rashi).
- They get up early on the morning of the 17th of Tammuz to worship the Calf
- HaShem tells Moshe to descend because of the Calf. Moshe descends.
When he sees the Calf he casts down the tablets and breaks them. He grinds
up the Calf and makes the people drink it. The Levites are ordered to kill
the idolaters. (32:7-29).
- On the 18th of Tammuz Moshe ascends the mountain to seek atonement for
the people (according to Rashi, Shemos 18:13 and Devarim 9:18, although in
Shemos 33:11 he says that Moshe came down on the 17th of Tammuz, burnt the
Calf on the 18th and went back up on the 19th, see Gur Aryeh for an explanation).
HaShem tells Moshe that from now on the Shechina will not be with them.
(Shemos 32:31 until 33:3)
- Moshe descends on the 29th of Av (Rashi, Devarim 9:18). He informs the
people that the Shechina will not be with them. The people mourn. (Shemos
- We are informed that from the time of the sin of the Calf, Moshe has moved
his tent out of the camp (33:7-11). There in his tent Moshe now pleads with
HaShem that the Shechina should go with them. HaShem agrees.
Moshe asks to see HaShem's glory, and HaShem agrees. Moshe is
instructed to carve two new tablets, and to prepare to return to the mountain
the next morning. (33:12 until 34:3).
- On Rosh Chodesh Elul Moshe once more ascends the mountain. (Rashi Shemos
33:11 and Devarim 9:18) He is instructed in the 13 Attributes of Mercy, and
warned that we must not make covenants with the Canaanites, but we must shatter
their altars. (34:4-17)
- Rashi informs us that during this third period on the mountain the building
of the tabernacle was commanded (Rashi 31:18), but he does not specify at
what point. Perhaps he would place parshios Truma, Tetzavei and the beginning
of Ki Sisa (25:1 until 31:17), between 34:17 and 34:18. Thus the discussion
of what to do to the Canaanite altars (leading up to 34:17) would be followed
by the instructions for making a tabernacle and altar for HaShem. And
the discussion of Shabbos in verses 31:12-17, would be followed by the discussion
of the festivals (the usual association), 34:18-26.
- In verse 34:27 Moshe is informed which parts of the Torah may be written
down and which may not (Rashi). He remains on the mountain for forty days
and nights, as he did before, by the end of which HaShem has rewritten
the Ten Commandments on the tablets that Moshe has carved (see Rashi to 34:1).
He descends with the second tablets on Yom Kippur, his face glowing with "rays
of splendor". (34:29-35; Rashi).