Yitro, Exodus 18:1-20:23, Parshat Ha Shavua for Shabbat, Saturday, January 22, 2022

The revelation at Sinai is the central event in Jewish religious belief. The Exodus from Egypt was the physical liberation of the Jewish people, but God giving the Torah to the Jewish people established our spiritual purpose, our reason for being freed. It was a special moment of direct, unmediated contact between God and the Jewish people and the rest of Jewish history has been trying to figure out what happened in that moment. 

Our sages teach that God revealed the entire Torah Sinai, both the written Torah (Torah shebichtav) and the oral Torah (Torah she b’al peh) meaning all the interpretations of the Torah that will ever be created, both legal and homiletic. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah Introduction) 

Our rabbis also taught that when God spoke at Mt. Sinai, God’s voice divided itself into 70 human languages, so that everyone might understand it, according to their ability. (Exodus Rabbah 5:9) 

The 19th Century Hasidic Master, Rabbi Naftali Tzi Horowitz taught, in his Zera HaKodesh, that all God said at Sinai was the letter Aleph, the first letter of the first word God uttered (אנוכי) Anochi, and the letter Aleph has no sound. 

These three very different explanations of what happened at Sinai have three things in common. First, that the Revelation was beyond normal speech and normal understanding. It contained all speech and all understanding simultaneously. 

Further that what happened at Sinai was not a one-time event, but rather that the process of Divine revelation is ongoing. 

Finally, the Revelation is part of the partnership, the covenant, between God and the Jewish people. 

For it is through our understanding of Torah, our ongoing effort to interpret Torah and make it relevant to our time, and through our actions to make its values live that God’s message and God’s sacred plan become real in the world. ~Rabbi Dean Kertesz