• Home
  • Parashah Insights
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals & Fasts
  • Articles
  • Books
  • About
  •  

    Revelation on Shavu’ot

    Shavu’ot is the festival of Revelation.

    According to Franz Rosenzweig, it is one of three leading themes of Judaism – Creation, Revelation and Redemption.

    All are difficult thoughts for the human mind. All are intertwined, but traditional Judaism believes that Revelation is the most important of the three since Creation and Redemption are part of God’s self-revelation.

    There are two aspects of Revelation, the process and the content.

    Looking at the process, we ask in what way God revealed Himself.

    Looking at the content, we ask what it was that He revealed.

    The content is apprehended with the eye, the process with the ear.

    The eye looks at the verbal content of Revelation, the letters and words that constitute the narrative and the commandments.

    The ear – agent of the soul – apprehends the Presence. The Talmud says that when a king is coming, even the sightless person senses the royal presence.

    We use the term Revelation for both the process and the message which it articulates.

    By what means does God reveal His existence, His Presence, His love and concern?

    In one sense it is one of His secrets. When we say, HaShem echad – “God is unique”, we affirm that we finite humans do not need to know everything about Him and how He operates. If we understood God, say the philosophers, we would have to be God – Lu yedativ heyitiv.

    One thing is certain: there are many ways to knowledge, and they are not all types of “seeing with the eye”. God’s self-revelation is not measured in mandates or millimeters but spiritually, in moments and moods.

    From the content of the Revelation – the pattern of Torah and commandments – we learn that He is a moral God who stands for goodness, decency, justice and peace.

    Our eyes can explore the words, our five senses can taste them (like the little children who learnt the alphabet by licking off the honey with which the letters were written on their slates), our minds can search out their meanings.

    The legal and literary dimension of the commandments can occupy the best human brains, the historians can study the unfolding narrative of the ages, the challenge of the Divine will can assure us that while the Giving of the Torah only occurred once, the Receiving of the Torah is for every day of our lives.

    The content of the Revelation and its process need one another. If all we had was the content we would miss the spirit of the Living God.

    Having the Living God is already a wondrous boon (Dayyenu!), but if that was all we had we would miss the message that His will is for us to live by His law.

    Comments are closed.