Yes, everyone knows that Parashat Yitro is one of the two parshiyot in the Torah that recites (though not identically) the Aseret Hadibrot, the 10 Commandments. This is the Parasha in which we experience Revelation.
It is fascinating to note that when the Torah was about to be given at Sinai, it begins with awesome thunder, lightning and deafening sound sufficient to cause all to tremble. Exodus 19:17. Yet, when God spoke to Elijah the Prophet, he revealed himself with “a still small voice,” the “kol demamah dakah.” On Rosh Hashanah we say that the great shofar is blown, but the still small voice is heard.
The Rabbis ask why the thunder, lightning and shofar blasts were necessary at Matan Torah—the giving of Torah, but we experience God mostly in quiet moments of contemplation now.
I found the answer fascinating and perhaps you will too.
The word “matan” means “giving”. A “matanah” is a “gift.” At Matan Torah, the Rabbis say, there were two gifts. One preceded the other. The first gift was the infusion into each Jewish soul the intense desire to fulfill God’s will. Something special was added at that moment in to the DNA of B’nai Yisrael that made the Jewish Soul even more receptive of the actual Torah that was given next. It made the soil of the soul even more fertile for the implantation of the Torah and Godliness.
We believe that every Jewish soul that ever was and ever will be was present at Sinai. Every Jewish soul was affected by the transformational experience which we can only understand as thunder, lightning and the sound of the shofar.
If you were asked the question “what are you,” how long would it take for the answer “I am a Jew” to come to mind? Is that normal and natural? Do other peoples think in such terms about themselves? Does a Jew feel Jewish? Do Jews feel pain when their brothers and sisters feel pain? Do Jews feel shame when a Jew acts in a disgraceful way?
I don’t know the answers. I just pose the questions. These would be examples of something very deep going on inside when being a part of the Jewish people.
No wonder we speak of the loud Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and the Still Small Voice. On Rosh Hashanah we recall the possibilities of Torah and goodness that God planted in each of our souls. As Jews, God does not need to speak loudly to us any longer (though maybe God should). Following Sinai, we have the ability to find God and hear God’s message, if we will only just listen. What did God plant within each of us that makes us feel so connected as a people and so connected to our Godly source?
This Shabbat, we learn with Rabbi Aaron Bergman on a topic related to the Aseret Hadibrot. He says, “My Torah study will look at the commandment to not murder through the eyes of the great French philosopher and Holocaust survivor Emmanuel Levinas. He argues that ethics is the foundation of all philosophy and that the ability to truly see each other’s humanity is the basis of ethics.”
Please learn with us at 9:45 a.m. in the Shiffman Chapel. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.