More Moment Than Mountain

Ancient legends say that great mountains contended to be the site where God would reveal the Torah. But God did not have loftiness in mind:

Mount Tabor and Mount Carmel presented themselves with pride as wide as the world saying:  We are tall and the Holy One, blessed be he, will give the Torah upon one of us! But it is to the lowly in spirit that God brings honor and presence. It was Sinai which humbled itself before God saying:  I am lowly. And therefore, God brought his honored presence to Sinai and the Torah was given upon it.

(Click here for midrash in Hebrew and English)

As far as God is concerned, pride takes up too much room:

Concerning any person of haughty spirit, the Holy One, blessed be he, says:  He and I are unable to live in the world together.

The Babylonian sage, Rav Yosef, taught that pride is never the proper carrier of revelation or of Torah:

One should always learn from the Creator’s attitude. For the Holy One, blessed be he, set aside all mountains and heights and rested his presence on Mount Sinai just as he had set aside all stately trees and rested his presence in the lowly thorn bush that burned before Moses but was not consumed…

(Click here for Talmud in Hebrew and English)

Sinai was the perfect site for giving the Torah—more moment than mountain.

The modest Mount Sinai of poet Rivka Miriam stood without presumption on tip toes straining—along with the eager throng— to catch a glimpse of her (Torah) as she descended.

The mountain stood on tip toes
in order to see her coming down
but when she came, he shrank, bent down
and she like a mantle fell over his shoulders
a firm but hidden press on the neck
on the collar of the cliff.
Please, he called to her
brush my neck, brush my neck
and he began to understand.

(Click here for the poem in Hebrew and in English)

There are no names in the poem—neither the mountain nor Moses; neither God nor Torah itself are named. Vision is absent, as well. Torah depends neither upon reputations nor upon grand vision. Understanding comes unseen, but felt—from press, from presence.

This entry was posted in Holidays, Midrash, Poetry, Talmud, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

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