Tuesday evening begins the holy days of Shavout, the moment of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. Revelation at Sinai is the first, and largest, act of religious equality in history. Many other cultures and religions experience the divine in the same way they experience the world around them – as a hierarchy, a society divided by class or title. The Revelation at Mt. Sinai is open to all – regardless of status, gender, power, or lack of power. All the individuals at Sinai are equal.
The description of Revelation, Exodus 20:15: “They heard the Lightning and saw the Thunder.” Rabbis have interpreted these verses in different ways. Some teach that the moment was so overwhelming that all of our senses were overwhelmed and confused and could not process the information. I would like to offer another teaching.
Just as everyone was able to be physically part of the experience of Revelation, we can teach that “hearing lightning and seeing thunder,” is a metaphor that teaches all of Judaism is accessible to each of us. Even as each person’s ability to experience Judaism is unique, any and all forms of experiencing holy communication is not only valid, it is a wonderful gift from God.
Let us celebrate that each person can and will find their unique path to experiencing and celebrating the wonders of God’s gifts.
Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman has led Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for 25 years. He is a graduate of Temple University, Hebrew University, Mirkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. Rabbi Grossman also works in the field of Jewish Special Education and co-wrote and participated in the video “Someone is Listening,” the story of a young deaf Jew and his search for fulfillment as a Jewish adult. Rabbi Grossman is also fluent in several sign languages.