Describing the awesome revelation upon Har Sinai, the Torah states, “And the entire nation saw the sounds, and the fires, and the call of the Shofar.” R’ Shlomo Carlebach perceived a very deep lesson hidden in this verse.

Gathered for Matan Torah at the foot of the mountain, six hundred thousand broken ex-slaves became bound to one another in the deepest way and elevated to the most unimaginable heights, assuming the glorious mantle of spiritual royalty as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” From that awesome moment, this nation was tasked with magnifying the Creator’s presence in His world through prayer, following His commandments for an elevated life, and studying to internalize His word. Many would rise against them throughout history, intent on terminating their mission, but the Jewish people would find the strength to overcome, to ignite a new generation of candles with the very flame they had received from those who came before them.

To be a Jew is to live the present moment with intensity, consciousness, and an enormous sense of mission. To be a Jew is to remember the past in addition to forever looking toward a glorious future. Indeed, to be a Jew is to view both past and present through the lens of the future awaiting us which, permeated with the light of Hashem’s absolute revelation, will wash away the pain of this bitter exile – leaving no question unanswered. To be a Jew also means to be focused on all of history, the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all at the very same moment in time. To mourn the devastating tragedies we have endured along this long and winding road and yet simultaneously rejoice in the gift of our faith; “Bidimah b’rinah”; “With tears and with joy, with joy and with tears.”

Reb Shlomo saw our verse, referring to our nascent nation’s response to the wondrous yoke placed upon them, as hinting to the unique personality we would need to adopt: “And the entire nation saw the sounds”: A Jew is one who remains connected to the wonder of the past; the sounds of Har Sinai. “And the fires”: At the very same time, he bitterly mourns the devastating fires of exile; pogroms, the Inquisition, the Holocaust. “And the call of the Shofar”: Through it all, the eternal Jew must stay ever connected to the echoes of the Great Shofar, looking through the cracks in time to a brighter future that constantly approaches as the sun rays spread across the inky sky.

A Jew remains connected to the entire Jewish experience each moment; both the glory and pain of the past as well as an eternal hope in a brighter future.

R’ Shlomo Carlebach
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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