Lighting Up A Nation
A Shavuot Story
By Smadar Goldstein
God summoned me from my resting place in the clouds, and gave me a serious mission.
“I WANT YOU TO BE SCARY.” God told me.
“Aren't I always scary?” I asked.
“I WANT YOU TO BE SCARIER. USE YOUR FISTS.”
Hmmm…Haven’t been told that in a while, I thought. “Like with Noah?” I asked. Then, I had thrown so many rods; it took me months to restock! My rods knocked down trees and ripped apart huts and boats. The world looked awful. My partner, Rain, filled it up with so many raindrops; nothing was left except for Noah's ark, drifting alone on waves. Though using my fists was fun, I was sad to see His creations disappear in the flowing waters.
“DO NOT DESTROY ANYTHING.”
“But….How can I use my fists and not destroy anything?”
“THINK OF SOMETHING. BEGIN WHEN YOU HEAR THE BLAST OF THE SHOFAR, THE RAM’S HORN.”
“Shofar? What's going on?” God didn’t reply. The shofar meant business. The last time I'd heard it, a ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, almost 300 years ago! I remember when Abraham climbed Mt. Moriah, his sharpest sword in hand, Isaac walking solemnly by his side. While Isaac watched, Abraham built an altar with strong sticks and branches. Isaac climbed up on it. Just when Abraham raised his sword high above his head, tears streaming down his face, the angel Gabriel stopped him. God commanded Gabriel not to let Abraham harm Isaac. Instead, Abraham sacrificed a ram caught in the bushes, and the first shofar was born.
Now, I watched God address all the Elements: Fog, Smoke, Thunder, even Hail, ordering each to be their most frightening, yet not dangerous.
Looking down toward Earth, I saw masses of scared people huddled below us at Mt. Sinai. I didn’t blame them for being scared. I was scared, too.
TRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAHHH HHHH!" The shofar blasted. I searched, but saw no one blowing. Instead of lowering in sound, the blast grew louder. Whoa!
I rushed to my rods and roared, hurling ten in each cloud-hand. Following orders, I had coated each lightning bolt with soft, silver dew. The rods were shinier than normal, and, I thought, quite beautiful. I was about to throw my last rod when I heard God’s voice.
“DESCEND TO THE PEOPLE, LEST THEY ARE DESTROYED BY SEEING GOD, AND MANY WILL FALL. AND LET THE PRIESTS ALSO, …SANCTIFY THEMSELVES, LEST GOD EXPLODE UPON THEM!” (Exodus 19:21,22)
Explode? I stared down. What a mess! People were running in all directions. Children cried. Cattle bellowed.
"Stop!" cried a child, raising his hands to his ears.
"Let's go," bawled another boy, pulling his mother’s leg.
"I've got to get out of here!" a man shouted as he crawled behind a bush. My rods descended. One of them fell near the man in the bush. I called out that the rods were harmless, but there was too much noise. He fainted.
I heard a man's voice, much lighter than God's. Who was here? God said no visitors! “The people cannot come up to Mt. Sinai, for You have told us to set boundaries around the mountain, and sanctify it.” (Exodus 19:23) Moses was with us! God appeared, smoked in red and gray flames.
Wow! I had never seen Him like this. When He destroyed the world except for Noah, He had stood with us Storm elements, holding my last stack of rods, tears in His eyes. When Abraham brought Isaac to sacrifice, He had filled the air of Mt. Moriah with white smoke and white ashes. This was petrifying!
I held my rod tightly, wondering if Moses would go up in flames.
The flames shot red sparks, and then exploded in a fiery orange blast.
"The mountain's exploding!" cried a man.
"We're going to die!" a woman shrieked.
“…DESCEND, THEN COME UP,...YOUR BROTHER, AARON WITH YOU. BUT LET NOT THE PRIESTS AND THE PEOPLE BREAK THROUGH TO COME UP TO GOD, LEST HE EXPLODE UPON THEM (Exodus 19:24).”
Moses emerged from the orange smoke, unharmed. Slowly, the noises quieted. Birds didn't chirp. Cattle were stunned into silence. I looked to the oceans, awed. Whales and dolphins floated on the water’s surface. An octopus waved a tentacle.
Moses descended Mt. Sinai.
"He's glowing!" a woman shouted.
"God is walking with him!" Women argued about Moses' face, which shone with an eerie glow.
"Gather round the mountain!" called a mother.
"It's safe now!"
"Yes, come! Moses will relay God's message!"
One priest called to Moses. “You speak with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die (Exodus 21:16).”
“I am God, your God, who took you out of Egypt from the house of slavery, out of the house of bondage.
Do not have any other gods before me…
Do not make for yourselves any graven images or any likeness of any thing….
Do not take the name of God, your God, in vain…
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy…
Honor your father and mother…
Do not kill.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do not covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, his servants, his donkey, or anything that is his. (Exodus 20:2-14)
I listened to the people, perched high on a gray cloud.
"It is God's Torah!" a priest shouted.
"I have waited for this moment my whole life!" a man cried, wiping tears from his eyes.
"Ema, what is God telling us to do?" a child asked.
"To listen to His laws." The mother answered.
"Hold my hand, dear, and let's listen together." The small boy held his mother's hand, and looked to the child next to him. He held out his hand. Soon, there was not a free hand among the people. Chaos turned to unity.
I sighed, wiping silver rod-tears from my eyes.
"It is done. We are a nation now," smiled a man, clasping hands with his neighbor.
"Hodu LaHashem, ki tov, Praise God, for He is good," said a priest, wrapping his arm round his neighbor. Every Jewish hand linked to another.
"We are one," responded the next priest.
"One God," said the next.
"One nation," said another.
"One nation, one God," a priest repeated. The words swept through the crowds like the fire in Moses' eyes.
Swaying in unison, the Jewish nation called out, “All the words which God said, we will do (Exodus 24:3).”
I set down my rod. I took the leftover sparkling dew, and with a nod of approval from God, sprinkled it down to the pulsing, singing nation below.
"It's raining!" said a child.
"No, it's – it's – it's – what is it?" replied his mother.
"It’s the light of the Torah," answered the child, and started to dance with his brothers and sisters.
God hugged me, and then helped me sprinkle sparkling dew on the dancing children.