“Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession (segulah) among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
This week’s parasha describes Revelation at Sinai. It is an awesome scene with all the sound and light effects befitting a highlight performance. It is also an historical marker witnessed by all the people. Mount Sinai engulfed in smoke, the fire of God, the quaking of the mountain and the wailing notes of the shofar. Imagining the grandeur of this spiritual moment is difficult for us, the modernists who need scientific explanations and visual proof to believe. It would take all the tricks of moviemaking to put us in the scene – Technicolor, surround sound and omnimax, and yet, we probably would not be able to answer unanimously as our ancestors did, “all that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” They were there. They were witnesses. We have to take their word for it.
“Sinai” evokes different images for different people. Some perceive Sinai as a “myth.” Bill Moyers, when interviewing Joseph Campbell, identifies myths as “the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance.” Campbell adds, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves…Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life…what we are capable of knowing and experiencing within.”
We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. Some may read of the moment as a guided imagery. Others may look for the Sinai that is within them. For some there was only one “R”evelation of Torah. For others, “r”evelation occurs each and every day – we have only to open ourselves to the possibility. However we frame the experience, we recognize Torah as a profound gift.
Just as Creation is renewed each day, so too is the opportunity to embrace Torah. What if Torah is not revealed in the past or the future? What if every time we connect with an “inner Sinai” wisdom and insights are revealed through insight and understanding ? This requires mindful presence. That is, when we leave the constricting narrows of an inner Egypt and journey into an open heart-space. Free from restriction, in a place of expansiveness, awakened hearts are truly open and “inclined to be in awe of [the Divine]…” (Machaneh Degel on Yastrow, as presented by R. Sam Feinsmith).
Our liturgy speaks of Revelation in the Ahavat Olam/Ahava Rabba prayers, but with a different focus. Ahavah means “love.” In this prayer we understand God’s unconditional love to be expressed through the gift of Torah. Imagine what it means to be “loved by a great love.” Have you ever allowed yourself to receive this Divine love from the many sources through which it flows? This love is manifest through compassion, guidance, and presence, as is reflected in the translation of Ahavah rabba below.
“With an abounding love, you love us…[J]ust as our ancestors placed their trust in you, and you imparted to them the laws of life, so be gracious to us, too, and teach us…[B]e merciful with us, and place into our hearts ability to understand, to see, to hear, to learn, to teach, to keep, to do, and to uphold with love all that we study of your Torah. Enlighten us with your Torah…Make our hearts one, to love your name and be in awe of it. Keep us from shame, and from humiliation, and from stumbling, today and always… “Kol Haneshamah siddur
We walk each day in a sea of love. Imagine all the love we could receive and return were we to be more mindful of this love. May your Shabbat return you to life in this moment so that you may be filled with a profound rediscovery of love.
Nina J. Mizrahi
Parastatals Yitro 5777