Shock and Awe – Parashat Yitro

January 22, 2019 at 1:11 AM , , ,

“…And it came to pass on the third day as morning dawned, there was thunder and lightning… and the entire nation that was in the camp shuddered…” – Shemot 19:16

וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיֹת הַבֹּקֶר וַיְהִי קֹלֹת וּבְרָקִים . . וַיֶּחֱרַד כָּל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר בַּמַּחֲנֶה – שמות יט, טז

If to instill fear alone, the thunder and lightning storm that accompanied the Giving of the Torah was entirely superfluous. Certainly, the revelation of G-d Himself at Sinai, as the verse (20:19) declares, “you have seen that I spoken with you from heaven,” impressed upon the Jewish people profound awe and amazement, even greater than the physical fright caused by thunder and lightning! Rather, this explosion of sound and light was not the cause of the drama at the Giving of the Torah but in a sense, its effect; it reflected the shocking and amazing spiritual discovery that the Jewish people experienced at that great moment.

The Midrash (Tanchuma Va’era 15) describes G-d’s revelation at Sinai as the breach of a decree and divide that separated “the higher realms and the lower realms”—the higher spiritual reality and the physical world that evolves and is nourished from it. Until that point, the “truth” of the physical and tangible reality was not to be questioned. At the Giving of the Torah, however, that perception was shattered, and we were given the ability to reveal and recognize that the truth of all existence is its derivation from G-d, the One and Only true Existence and Being.


The blow that was dealt at Sinai to the world’s view of reality was comparable to the shock and inner upheaval experienced by someone who discovers that all he knew until now was a lie, and everything is opposite of what he perceived it to be. The startling thunder and lightning was merely the physical embodiment and reflection of the spiritual storm that swept and shocked all of existence at that amazing moment.

—Likkutei Sichos vol 33, pp. 23-24


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