Tales of Hasidim- Martin Buber
The rabbi of Kotzk was asked: “Why is Shavuot called ‘the time the Torah was given’ rather than the time we received the Torah?” He answered: “The giving took place on one day, but the receiving takes
place at all times.”
Martin Buber, The Man of Today and the Jewish Bible, 1936.
Creation is the origin, redemption the goal. But revelation is not a fixed, dated point poised between the two. The revelation at Sinai is not this midpoint itself, but the perceiving of it, and such perception is possible at any time.
Jewish Study Bible on Deuteronomy 5:1-5
The aim is to overcome the limits of historical time and place through participation in the covenant, which makes revelation “present.”
R. Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, Aish Kodesh, Ki Thetze, September 14, 1940
Translated by R. James Jacobson-Maisels
In his commentary on the verse beginning the Book of Leviticus (1:1), "[God] called Moses and God spoke to him..." Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says: "The redundant use of the phrase "to him" implies that the Voice went and reached Moses' ears only, but no one else could hear it." Our teacher Moses was special in that he could also hear the voice that was speaking only to him, individually and privately. Although God teaches Torah to the entire Jewish people, this is not a teaching that is personal and individual to every person. Rather, God teaches Torah to God's people in general, to all Jews as one. So, it is up to each and every Jew to work to achieve that level where God speaks to them individually, as we said above.
From "Shavuot and the Sacred Process of Becoming" by Adina Allen.
It is taught in the Talmud that at the moment of revelation we received all the teachings that will ever be (Megillah 19b). According to the Mishnah, we received the entirety of the Torah, but nothing more (Pirkei Avot 1:1). Others postulate that we heard even less. According to R. Yehoshua ben Levi, we were able to hear only the first two of the Ten Commandments (Shir HaShirim Rabbah [Vilna] 1:2). And according to the 19th-century commentator Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Ropshicz, in fact all we heard in the moment of revelation was a single letter.
In his work Zera Kodesh, Horowitz writes: “It is possible that at Sinai we heard nothing from the mouth of God other than the letter aleph of the first utterance Anochi Adonai Eloheikhem, I am YHWH your God.” In this view, what we heard was just the aleph — itself a silent letter until a vowel of articulation is placed beneath it. As Daniel Matt writes in God & the Big Bang, “The Aleph of revelation finds expression moment by moment.” The aleph is given. What it becomes is up to us. In this understanding, then, Shavuot becomes a holiday in which we celebrate the possibility inherent in revelation and commit ourselves to be in an ongoing process to bring forth those articulations most needed in our world today. When we approach texts with our intellect, imagination, and intuition, we activate the creativity residing within each one of us and open up new realms of interpretation. In doing so, we step into our role as the commentators of today.
Shavuot not only commemorates the experience of our ancestors receiving Torah at Mount Sinai, it invites us to inhabit this sacred process of reception ourselves. In Judaism, revelation is an ongoing process in which our learning, commentary, and insights are essential. When we come up to read from the Torah, we bless, “…asher natan lanu Torat emet, v’chayei olam nata b’tocheinu, baruch atah HaShem, noten ha Torah.” Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, known by the name of his greatest work, Sefat Emet, gives a beautiful teaching on this verse by drawing meaning from the specificities of the grammar in this blessing: “…who gave (natan – in the past tense) the Torah of truth and implanted within us eternal life, blessed are You who gives (noten – in the present tense) the Torah” (Kedoshim 1871, s.v. ba-Midrash). In the words of Rabbi Arthur Green, “Torah given to the ancients can only become the Torah of truth when each reader takes that eternal life implanted within us and uses it to reread Torah in a way that speaks to our own lives. God not only resides behind the text as guarantor of its infinite elasticity but also dwells within us, in the innermost chambers of our endless creativity.” When we activate our creativity, we tap into the vast possibilities of what we, Torah, and God can become.
DEAFENING SILENCE: "Said Rabbi Abbahu in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: When the Holy One gave the Torah, no bird screeched, no fowl flew, no ox mooed, none of the ophanim (angels) flapped a wing, nor did the seraphim (burning celestial beings) chant "Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh (Holy, Holy, Holy!)" The sea did not roar, and none of the creatures uttered a sound. Throughout the entire world there was only a deafening silence as the Divine Voice went forth speaking: Anochi Adonai Elohecha (I am the Lord your God)" (Midrash Exodus Rabbah)
"THE SILENT ALEF" From The Book of Miracles (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner)
Narrator: “No one really knows for sure what happened on Mount Sinai.” One time the rabbis were arguing about it.
RABBI 1: "At Mt Sinai God spoke the entire Torah to all the Children of Israel, and Moses wrote it down as God spoke.
RABBI 2: "No! It says in the Torah that the Children of Israel heard only the Ten Commandments that were carved in stone with the finger of God.
RABBI 3: "NO NO! The people could not handle hearing all of that. It would be too much for them. They only heard God say the first word of the Ten Commandments– “ANOCHI!" אנכי and then the entire world went totally silent, not even a bird chirped or a frog croaked.” Anochi means “I am” – Basically they heard God saying “I exist – I am real”
RABBI 4: "NO NO NO!!! ‘Not even the first word, Anochi אנכי, was heard. All that God spoke was the first letter, of the first word, of the first commandment. At Sinai, all the people of Israel needed to hear was the sound of the alef. It meant that God and the Jewish people could have a conversation.”
Narrator: Jewish mysticism teaches that Alef, contains the entire Torah. But not everyone hears the gentle sound of alef. People are able to hear only what they are ready to hear. God speaks to each of us in a personal way, taking into consideration our strength, wisdom, and preparation.