Shabbat Shalom, friends, thank you so much for joining us in this magical weaving, for bringing your energy and your prayers to this great prayer that we're praying tonight.
We're now in Parshat Yitro — this is a beautiful moment where someone from outside of the tribe brings in information that helps to solidify what the Jewish people are.
This is when Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, comes and advises him on how to organize the people.
It's actually a beautiful example of intertribal weaving; of how we lift each other up and how we give each other the clues.
We also have here a beautiful conversation with God. I know some of us here have allergies to the word God, and I'll be using that word a lot because this is a character in the story and it's the face given to the Force of Oneness that we encounter in this very, very powerful chapter of encounter. So bear with me as I share the intricacies of the relationship that is forged in the desert with that God.
We arrive at Mount Sinai and Moses begins to coordinate the people as a society under the guidance of the Source. And to communicate with this holiness, he goes up the mountain and the people are camped beneath, and the Lord calls him from the mountain and says,
"thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel, 'you have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on Eagle's wings and brought you to me'."
How I bore you on Eagle's wings and brought you to Me.
How beautiful are these words. So God doesn't say I brought you to your freedom, actually God said, "I brought you to Me."
That bringing means a connection is made with the Source, a closeness.
And he continues to say that if they behave in right relationship with each other "they will be My treasured possession among all the peoples."
These words tell us that among all the creations, the great Source can have particular moods of closeness, feelings of connection, and treasured relationships. And God continues and says, "indeed, all the earth is Mine." We have a commentary by Rashi that says, God is actually saying, "now don't say that 'ye alone belong to me' and that I have no other peoples besides you.' All peoples are Mine."
So it is clear that all are God's people. And as such, of course, God loves all people in very different ways.
God says, "you shall be to Me a holy nation." In other words, those that are brought close, who return this sense of relationship with the Source, shall be deeply connected with the holiness behind it all. Those that have love in return for the love that is being shared can share an intimacy with the force of creation.
So this is perhaps what God was seeking in orchestrating this play to have a treasured people. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that all comes from the same source and all returns to that source.
And yet there are some who, while on the path, develop a relationship with God. And that is the path that our ancestors were inviting us into in the desert. That our ancestors were invited into. This is the path of devotion, of relationship.
So how do we develop that relationship? How do we nurture that relationship?
The path of devotion teaches us that a relationship actually can't be bought or sold through any specific action. Through Shalts and Shall Nots. This is far too surface of a relationship. Someone who is locked in a cage can't steal. Tying one's hands does not generate intimacy with God. So relationship isn't a measured tit for tat arrangement.
Do this and then that. It is and can only be a feeling in the heart. Relationship is a feeling.
So how do we develop that feeling? In this Parsha, God puts on a great show. It says, "now Mount Sinai was all in smoke for the Lord had come down upon it with fire. The smoke rose like the smoke of the kiln and the whole mountain trembled violently. The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses spoke, God answered him in thunder."
Okay, so what's happening here? Maybe this demonstration is made because before giving us the commandments, God wanted to show us this all-pervading-ness. That She could affect nature, that she could speak through the natural world and all that is around us. This was the first step: developing trust. Who is that person who does not steal and does not wish to take? Who has a sense of comfort with what they already have? That person is one whose actions originate in trust in the unfolding of life. And once that trust is there, the knowing that all ways are open to Hashem, all ways are open to the One that connects everything, then the ways of right action naturally follow.
And so then the commandments came forth. Perhaps not as orders, but perhaps as signs of trust. When we become a nation of priests who are people working with God, people who are interacting with God, thou shalt is thou wilt, because we will be acting and speaking reverently, and we will be behaving magnanimously. This is how it is. This is how it is with the holy people.
The Parsha shows us that the One that Is Within All Things can speak to us through any avenue, not just nature. It speaks through Moses. In fact, God wanted the people to understand Moses as a messenger, as it is through their relationship with Moses that they could develop a relationship with the Source.
So if you can understand that there are messengers in your midst, that indeed each person around you has been coordinated by your closest Friend, the play of your life will unfold as a loving sport.
When you receive negative experiences, you can see them as lessons given from the greatest care. And when you receive positive experiences, you can see them as a sweet dance with your dearest.
This is intimacy. This is belonging. This is treasuring and being treasured. This is relationship.
The story of Mount Sinai is for me the story of God wanting friends, because who doesn't relish when you smile at them, when you smile at the Source in a tree, or when you recognize It's magic in a waterfall. When you see Their redirection of your life in your losses, and when you see Their flirtation in chance encounters. If you really do change your perception to be in intimacy, it will naturally change your behavior with others. You won't need to control, to Shall or Shall Not.
And you won't need to take what isn't yours. You won't need to lust after what others have because you will trust the circumstances of your life as the very things that bring you closer and closer to your Source. You will have the strength to accept reality as you see God's orchestration behind it and thus to bless it.
You will have reverence for your father and your mother and anyone who gives you with the things that sustain you for these gifts are the touch of God.
Speaking in vain would be impossible as you will not be able to speak God's name without love. You will instantly relish a holy name.
So may we be blessed to know the One in all acts and all circumstances of our lives and in this way may we treasure the Source and may we be forever treasured.