God does not dwell in the same space as one who is arrogant. Humility is the ultimate vessel for absorbing spirituality.
You saw the movie. Now its time to read the book. This week’s Torah portion is “Yitro” (Exodus 18:1-20:23), named for the father-in-law of Moses. As you may have guessed, this week’s portion includes the Ten Commandments, perhaps the most spectacular revelation of God to mankind. Although not readily apparent, it was not only the Ten Commandments that were given at this time, but it was the entire Torah (up until that point chronologically) that was given, as well.
It is now about three months after the Jewish people left Egypt and they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai and camped in front of the mountain. When Moses told the people that they would be receiving the Torah the Jewish people energetically responded “Na’aseh V’nishma” – “We will do and we will obey”, meaning that they commit to observing the Torah even before knowing what was written in it!
Then it came. Thunder and lightening. Heavy cloud. The call of the Shofar. The Ten Commandments were given. According to Jewish tradition it was only the first two commandments that were actually said by God Himself. The other eight were told by God to Moses and he related them to the people. This is because the people were unable to withstand the holiness of God’s voice. As soon as God said the first commandment the soul of every person actually left their body. They fainted and collapsed. The people were then revived and then the second commandment came. The same thing happened again. The people realized that God’s voice was simply too holy to listen to.
The Midrash teaches an important lesson with regards to the revelation at Mount Sinai. Why did God choose to give the Torah on Mount Sinai? Why in the desert? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to reveal the Torah in Times Square amidst camera, lights, and action? In fact, Mount Sinai was not even a very high mountain. A mini one, actually, surrounded by much larger and more majestic ones.
So why did God choose to give the Torah in a desert? And why on mini Mount Sinai? To teach us the humility is a prerequisite for coming close to God. Sometimes you have to leave the materialistic distraction of life in order to become an observant and God fearing person. As the Talmud teaches, God does not dwell in the same space as one who is arrogant. Humility is the ultimate vessel for absorbing spirituality. Nothing fancy in the desert. Nothing majestic about Mount Sinai. …..It’s just the way God wants us.
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Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin
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