By Laura Seymour
One of the great things about reading Torah is that if you miss something the first time, you will get another chance the next year. However, I can’t wait another year to share this with you. Last week we read the parashah of Yitro, one of my all-time favorites because I need to read it every year to remind myself that even Moses was not great at delegating. Someday I may even take Yitro’s advice! This is actually not the most important part of the parashah because the next thing that happens is the revelation at Sinai with all the thunder, lightning and more. However, this past Shabbat I read a great commentary from Rabbi Avi Killip on myjewishlearning.com that resonated. The title is “Hearing Amidst the Storm” and the message was that “revelation doesn’t happen in a moment of calm, but amidst chaos and fear.”
Right now in the world there seems to be struggle and chaos everywhere we look. Wouldn’t it be great if G-d came and solved all our problems? Rabbi Killip shares this text from Exodus 19:18: “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for God had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln and the whole mountain trembled violently.” The Midrash tells that the scene had G-d holding the mountain above the people and asking if they would follow. Of course, they agreed (wouldn’t you?). The people were ready to accept even in their fear.
It was too much for the people and they asked Moses to go up the mountain and get the commandments. Rabbi Killip ends his commentary with this: Like the people at the foot of the mountain, we too are overwhelmed. Fire and smoke seem to be everywhere. What do we have to hold on to? Our values. Our Torah. Our moral code. The Israelites found a way to hear the commandments amidst the storm and so too must we. Throwing our hands in the air and saying we can’t do anything is not the answer. The answer is that we find a way, stand together and go on. So from learning to delegate at the beginning of the parashah, we proceed to a message of listening and trusting even when it feels like too much.
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.Find a way and go on!