“Hashem our G-d has spoken to us in Chorev, saying, “You have had much dwelling by this mountain.” — Devarim 1:6
On the first day of Sivan, the Jewish people encamped at Har Sinai. Five days later, they received the Torah. They then remained at Har Sinai. Much time was to pass and many events were to transpire before they would begin their travels through the midbar.
Thirty-eight years later, when the Torah recounts the time spent at Har Sinai, it uses the expression, “You have had much dwelling by this mountain.” Rashi explains this to mean, “There is much reward for your having dwelt at this mountain. While you were there, you acquired much importance and reward. You built the Mishkan, the Menorah, and the holy vessels. You received the Torah, and you appointed the Sanhedrin.”
This Rashi is difficult to understand. Moshe Rabbeinu is addressing the entire nation and saying that the years in the midbar were great for all of them. Every one of the Jewish people received greatness and reward for being there. Yet only a small number of the people actually constructed the Mishkan, and none of them appointed the Sanhedrin. How are they rewarded for what they didn’t do?
The answer to this can best be understood with a parable.
The Super Bowl Ring
In America today, entertainment is taken very seriously. And probably no event looms larger than the Super Bowl. Receiving more coverage and more notice than any religious event or national holiday, this is the event of the year. In supermarkets, on billboards, on t-shirts, and in magazines, the big game is touted with pictures of players and offers of memorabilia. Everyone wants to be a part of the hype.
On Super Bowl Sunday itself, life seems to stop. Over one hundred million people watch the game. About half of the households in the country show it in their living rooms and dens.
Needless to say, being on a Super Bowl team is the highlight of an athlete’s life, and being on the winning team means being a part of history. One of the trophies the winners receive is a Super Bowl ring. Typically, the ring is diamond-encrusted and large enough to bear the Super Bowl inscription, the winning team’s name and logo, and the year of the game.
In 2014, the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. This was their first Super Bowl victory, and to celebrate the team hired Tiffany to handcraft each Super Bowl ring. The famed jewelry company produced a masterpiece.
In the past, Super Bowl rings sold for close to $250,000, but this was in a class by itself. Set in white gold with over 107 round diamonds and 40 sapphires lining the top, it was enough to make a jewelry enthusiast drool. Tiffany refused to give a value on the ring, saying, “It’s truly priceless.”
The question, though, was: who gets a ring? Certainly, the starting players would each receive one. The other players who suit up for the game are also part of the team, so each of them should receive a ring as well. But there are also coaches, trainers, executives, and general staff. They too are part of the success, and they also should receive one. In the end, the Seahawks gave a ring to every full-time employee of the organization. All told, four hundred Super Bowl rings were distributed — because all those people were part of the team.
This seems to be the answer to the question on Rashi. The Torah is telling us we are all members of one nation. Whether you’re the gadol hador or a simple tailor, you’re a Jew, and every Jew is part of one unit. For good or for bad, we are together. Only too often, we have been punished as a group, but we are also rewarded as a group. What Moshe was saying to the people of that generation was, “During your lifetime these things were accomplished, and you are all a part of it. The nation as a whole is credited with the building of the Mishkan and the establishment of the Sanhedrin. You are all part of the nation, so you receive reward.”