According to our tradition, all the souls of our people throughout the generations were present when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai; moreover, these souls were also present when our Covenant with the Torah was renewed before we entered the Land of Zion. The source for this tradition is found in the following proclamation of Moshe to all the members of our people, when we stood at the borders of the Land of Zion:
“Not with you alone do I seal this Covenant and this Oath, but with whoever is here standing with us today before Hashem, our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.” (Deuteronomy 29:13)
“And with whoever is not here with us today” – “The Midrash Tanchuma, in its explanation of these words, states, “all the future generations that were destined to come were there at that hour” (Nitzavim 3). Regarding these future generations, the Midrash Tanchuma states in the name of Rabbi Abuhu, who said in the name of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmoni: “Their souls were there.”
In a related explanation of the above verse, Midrash Exodus Rabbah states that all the souls of the future generations were present at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given (28:6). The above verse, however, was proclaimed when we renewed the Covenant with the Torah before we entered the Land of Zion; thus, this teaching of the Midrash can be understood in the following manner: All the souls of the future generations were present at Sinai when the Torah was given, and they were also present when we renewed the Covenant with the Torah before we entered the Land. (Sha’arei Aharon). As the Etz Yosef commentary on Midrash Exodus Rabbah points out, if these souls were present when we renewed the Covenant with the Torah before we entered the Land, then they were surely present when the Torah was given at Sinai! (Commentary on Exodus Rabbah 28:6)
As we discussed, Torah – the Divine Teaching – is the “soul” of Zion – the Teaching which gives Zion its meaning and purpose. Your soul, my soul, and all our souls are therefore bound to the soul of Zion, for we were present when the Torah was given at Sinai, and we were present when the Covenant with the Torah was renewed before we entered the Land of Zion.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
P.S. The verse which we discussed in the above letter is from the Torah portion which we will read this Shabbos, Parshas Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20).