On Seder night we all sing the Praise of God in the song “Dayeinu” it would have been enough. During the fifteen stanzas of the song we enumerate the many miracles that God performed for our forefathers when He brought them out of Egypt. For each and every one of them, It would have been enough and it would be worthy to praise God for each individual miracle not only all of them together.
“Had He taken us out of Egypt but not judged them, it would have been enough. Had He judged them but not dealt with their gods, it would have been enough.” And so on. Yet one of the lines of this song is particularly unusual. “Had He brought us close to Har Sinai but not given us the Torah, it would have been enough!” Is this really true, would it have been sufficient just to draw near to Har Sinai but not to have received the Torah? Surely the entire point of coming near to Har Sinai was in order to receive the Torah. To come to Har Sinai but not to receive the Torah would be nonsensical and the most important element of the whole episode would be missing.
Yet the song teaches us otherwise. There would have been a point and it would have been sufficient of itself just to come to Har Sinai.
The reason for this relates back to one of the first conversations between God and Moshe during the encounter with the burning bush. We all recall the scene. Moshe has been the shepherd for his father-in-law’s sheep for some sixty years or so after having fled Egypt. He had to escape as a Jew’s taunt suggested that his terrible secret, the murder of an Egyptian, could be revealed and it was therefore prudent to make a quick getaway.
Suddenly while herding the sheep Moshe stumbles across a burning bush and coming closer to examine this phenomena he is informed that he should remove his shoes as the ground is holy. God then addresses Moshe and tells him that He has noticed the pain that His people are suffering and He will now take them out of Egypt. In this capacity God informs Moshe that he, Moshe, will now go and tell Paro, one of the most powerful men of the time, to release the Jewish people from slavery.
Moshe is taken aback and responds, “But they will not believe me and will not listen to me, as they will say that God has not appeared to me.” God then instructs Moshe to do two things, first to throw down his staff and see how it turns into a snake and then to place his hand in his chest and see that it becomes riddled with the skin condition, tzaraat. Rashi explains that these signs are due to the fact that Moshe had spoken ill of the people by assuming that they would not listen to him, and so he was like the snake and had to suffer tzaraat the punishment for speaking evil, for lashon hara.
Moshe claimed that in his recollection these people were not worthy of being saved. They were slaves with a slave mentality. They bickered with each other and were mean to him and other fellow Jews. God punished Moshe and sent him both tzaraat and the snake.
But worse, Moshe had ignored God’s words only a few verses before. “This is a sign for you that I have sent you, when you bring the people out of Egypt you will serve God on this mountain.” This mountain is obviously a reference to Har Sinai. God told Moshe that the redemption from Egyptian exile will be complete when the people serve God on this mountain.
God did not say that the exodus will be complete when the Jewish people receive the Torah. Rather, He said when they serve God on this mountain. This can be read that the exodus from Egypt will be complete when the Jews are capable of drawing near to God by coming close to Har Sinai. This will be a sign that they had shed the slave mentality and are ready and willing to serve God.
Thus, drawing close to Har Sinai is separate from receiving the Torah. Drawing close to Har Sinai is a sign that the Jewish people had been freed from Egypt and are worthy of receiving the Torah. It would have been enough just to come to Sinai and be ready to meet God as this would have indicated the end of Egyptian exile.
Like God we have to believe in the great power of the Jewish people to free themselves from slavery and be ready to serve God.