Yitro – Perceiving Godliness*

*In a poetic and metaphorical—though never literal—sense there are ideas and qualities that endure as Godliness. Theology

16 On the third day in the morning, there were thunder and lightning and a heavy cloud was on the mountain and the sound of the ram’s horn was extremely loud; and all of the people who were in the camp were trembling.  17 Moses brought the people out of the camp towards God; they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was totally covered in smoke since YHWH descends on it in fire, like a kiln, the entire mountain trembled intensely.  

Exodus 19

The universe dances before us in mystery and in sound. Could an enormous electric storm of blazing lights and furious sound have moved and bent everything in its path? Could hills and mountains blaze and then be engulfed by waves of rolling clouds. Wouldn’t the sounds overwhelm the whole people?

1 God spoke all of these things, saying: 2 I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from slavery. You will not have other gods instead of me. … 14 And all of the people saw the thundering and the lightning and the smoky mountain; the people trembled; so they moved back, they stood far away. …

Exodus 20

Could anyone perceive even a single word at first? Would the words made sense in spite of all the chaos? Should we choose to be swept up in this divine illusion or connect to a different reality of revelation? Is it the substance of the message that guides us or the way in which the transmission of that message was described?

15 They said to Moses, you speak with us and we will hear, but God must not speak to us, for we might die.

Exodus 20

The impact of revelation has been passed on to all of us, even down to our own generation; the precepts continually shine upon us. The message is of utmost importance and immutable to everyone because we can always stand at the bottom of Mount Sinai contemplating the possibilities posed by human nature. Moreover, we must also consider the unfathomable depth to the natural world. Is there a singularity that guides our lives?

16 Moses spoke to the people: Do not be afraid for God has come to test you; and in order that your revere will prevent you from transgressing.

Exodus 20

Would the dictums be more valid if we could discern the messages from that day? Or can human minds be the source of this revelation? We needn’t pledge our allegiance out of fear of retribution but simply because there are truths inscribed in our historical consciousness that strike us as supreme and has transcendent validity.

4 Where were you when the world (land) was established? Speak up if you have an inking.

Job 38
Nebula of stars
Nebula – where stars are born

Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021