One evening, when I was teaching Revelation at Sinai, ineluctably the question arose: “I did not stand at Sinai; how then am I to relate to that biblical, foundational event?”
I explained to the class that while the text in Deuteronomy (29:9) stipulates that everyone was present, “Atem ni’tzavim hayom cul’chem,” you who are standing here today, as well as all those who are not present, the Rabbis clearly understood the tension when they composed the blessing which is recited when one is called up to the Torah for an aliyah.
Baruch atah Hashem…asher natan lanu torat emet– we thank God who gave us the Torah (verb past tense). But the hatimah, the concluding blessing, is in the present tense!–noten hatorah–who gives us the Torah. God is ever giving the Torah. Revelation is ever unfolding, ever present.
Instantly, one woman announced, “I go to shul every Shabbat, but I have always been afraid to take an aliyah. This Shabbat I am taking an aliyah. I want to experience Revelation!”
A young woman seated across the table from her sat bolt upright, as if an electrical charge had coursed through her body. Born to a Jewish father and Christian mother, she had been raised as a Christian as part of her parents’ attempt at religious evenhandedness–the boys were raised as Jews, the girls as Christians. At age 16, she rebelled and converted to Judaism, and Me’ah was to be her journey of learning and declaration of identity. “I am taking an aliyah on Shabbat, too,” she declared. “I want to stand at Sinai!” A third woman turned to her and commented, “When I read Torah on Shabbat, I don’t like it when people talk during the Torah reading–they are interrupting my private conversation with God.”
Indeed, when we are sitting at the Me’ah table, we are ever standing at Sinai!
Dr. Lynne Heller