Saw you at Sinai
By HILLEL GOLDBERG IJN Executive Editor

I am told that there is a Jewish singles online dating service called sawyouatsinai.com.

Why Sinai?

The unique moment of revelation at Mount Sinai — marked in this week’s Torah portion — connects every Jew, then, since, and in the future, to G-d and to the Torah. By virtue of this Divine revelation, no Jew is a stranger to any other. Every Jew is linked.

In other words, the Jewish singles already met. They just need now to re-meet.

A family tree, by identifying links in the chain stretching back to Mount Sinai, intensifies one’s sense of connection to G-d’s original revelation of the Torah and, by extension, to every other Jew.

Often one hears this at a shiva house: “There are gaps in our family history, but now that so-and-so has passed on, we have no one else to ask. Why didn’t we ask when we had the chance?”

Years ago, instead of giving standard gifts to my children for Chanukah, I put in months of research and presented each of them with a family tree; one year, for my side of the family, the next year, for my wife’s side. On her side were many gaps, since many were lost in the Holocaust. Still, I tracked down the names and at least some of the dates of about 250 relatives previously unknown to us.

Fast forward to January, 2006. Our eldest son arrives at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel , only to learn that he has been given a faulty ticket by the travel agent. Instead of flying to the US for a family wedding, he finds himself traveling back to Jerusalem at 1 a.m. (and needing the travel agent to straighten things out for another flight).

Why did this happen to him?

In the taxi is a chasidic Jew from Belgium . Navigating between Hebrew, Yiddish and English, he and our son enjoy a nice conversation. Toward the end of the trip, our son asks, “What’s your name?”

“Yitzhak Zev Marcus.”

Our son says: “You mean, Yitzhak Zev, ha-levi!”

My son reveals to this total stranger his tribal ancestry!

The chasid from Belgium is stunned, and asks: “How did you know?”

Our son is not a psychic. He simply says: “Because we’re cousins.”

“How?”

Our son: “You tell me!”

The chasid thinks a few moments and then identifies my wife’s mother — maiden name Marcus.

My son had remembered the name, Yitzhak Zev ha-levi Marcus, his great-great-grandfather, from the family tree.

A missed flight brings together two total strangers in a taxi: related to each other because their ancestors stood at Sinai.

Enough?

Hardly.

At the family wedding a week later, we learn that the distant cousin sitting across from us at the table is none other than the Belgium chasid’s father. Unbeknownst to us, he had also heard of the poignant encounter in the taxi. Now we all put the pieces together.

Enough?

Later at the wedding, the Belgium chasid’s brother comes up to us with pictures from long-forgotten cemeteries in Hungary , which he is active in restoring. As the wedding music signals the joy of a new link in the chain from Sinai, this brother shows us two pictures, “before” and “after.” The first picture is a gravestone, badly deteriorated. None of the writing is clear. The “after” picture is this same gravestone as he has restored it.

It reads “Yitzhak Zev ha-levi.”

Died in 1920, remembered and reconnected in 2006 — alive in his descendants, who, like him and like his own ancestors before him, celebrate, day by day, the revelation at Sinai.