Parashas Yisro

This week’s parashah recounts the revelation at Sinai. After presenting the account, the Torah states (Shemos 20:14-16):
The entire people perceived the thunder and the lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain; the people saw it and they trembled, and they stood far off. And they said to Moshe: “You speak to us and we will hear; let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moshe said to the people: “Do not fear, for God has come in order to raise you up, and in order that awe of Him shall be upon your faces, so that you will not sin.”
In explaining this passage, the Maggid takes as his starting point a discussion by Akeidas Yitzchak (Gate 48) regarding a passage in Tehillim 68:8-11:
O God, when You went forth before Your nation, when You marched through the wilderness, Selah – the earth quaked, even the heavens dripped before the Presence of God – even Sinai, before God, the God of Yisrael. A generous rain did You pour down; when Your heritage was weary, You established it firmly. Your flock settled there; in Your goodness You prepared for the impoverished, O God.
The gist of Akeidas Yitzchak’s discussion is as follows. Hashem told Moshe (Shemos 19:9): “Behold, I am going to come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people will hear as I speak with you, and also will believe in you forever.” From this statement, Moshe understood that the Jewish People’s encounter with Hashem would be awesome, stunning, and terrifying. And thus it was. The people beheld a wondrous display of Hashem’s glory, His fearsomeness, and His radiant holiness. They heard and saw powerful thunder and lightning, a thick cloud, and a mighty shofar blast.  Hashem’s words issued forth like flashes of fire. Hashem orchestrated this awesome scene, with phenomena never before observed anywhere in the entire world, in order to smash the people’s hearts of stone and melt their iron sinews, so as to cultivate the people’s souls and usher them into a state of spiritual completeness. Hashem’s actions were like those of a person arduously laboring over a barren field that has long lain fallow in order to enable it to produce. All of this is reflected in the passage in Tehillim quoted above. David HaMelech likens Hashem’s display of wonders at Sinai to a downpour of rain on a parched field. Hashem performed these wonders in order to draw His spiritually impoverished people near to Him.
The Jews at Sinai who beheld these wonders were unable to bear them – they were struck with terror. They said to Moshe: “You speak to us and we will hear; let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Moshe spoke to the people’s hearts, saying: “Do not fear, for God has come in order to raise you up (נסות אתכם).” He was saying to them: “Hashem did not bring forth these wonders in order to cause you to die. Rather, He brought them forth in order to raise high like a banner (נס להתנוסס) your recognition of His Godly power, and prepare you for true spiritual success.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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