It was Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month of Sivan, two and a half months after Bnei Yisrael left Egypt. They had camped at a mountain called Mount Sinai, and excitement could be felt in the air.
There was a wonderful sense of unity amongst the millions of Jews – like a single person with a single heart. In just a few days they were about to become one nation – one very special nation. They will be the ones who will receive HaShem’s wonderful Torah!
E Pluribus Unum. These words, which are in Latin (the language of the ancient Romans), appear on the Great Seal of the United States, as well as on passports and other official documents. It’s even on the back of the one-dollar bill!
In English it means, “Out of many, one,” and it was the motto of the Founding Fathers of America, way back in the late 1700s. Different people from different backgrounds and cultures come together to form one great nation. And it worked! From the country’s humble beginnings, America became a great nation.
Was this “Out of many, one,” a new idea? Not at all! Going back around 3,000 years, here at the foot of Mt. Sinai, on the first day of Sivan, just days before the Giving of the Torah, we read, “And he camped there opposite the mountain,” – not “And they camped there.” The Sages explain that Bnei Yisrael were, “K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad,” like one man with one heart – E Pluribus Unum!
Our wonderful Torah certainly deserves to be given to Bnei Yisrael on a mountain, but why Mount Sinai, a small mountain?
HaShem is teaching us a lesson in humility. Although we have much to be proud of, it is never good to be haughty and boastful. We should be strong like a mountain, but humble like a small mountain.
The famous Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, offered another interesting reason:
The nations of the world would make a special effort to worship their idols on tall mountains. The higher the mountain, the more special it was to them. Since the smaller Mount Sinai never had idols worshipped on it, it was the perfect place for Matan Torah – the giving of the Torah.