An argument broke out at the temple. A bunch of people approached the rabbi inquiring, “Just what did God say to Moses at Mt. Sinai?”
One group was sure that God gave Moses the whole Torah, reciting every single word. That is what they see whenever the rabbi dressed up as Moses, carrying the Torah down the hill at Seder in the Wilderness congregational retreat.
Another group thought that was preposterous because why would God tell Moses when Moses will die and exactly what would happen afterward. They decreed that Moses must only have been told the Ten Commandments. After all, that’s what Cecil B. DeMille depicted as Charlton Heston walked down the mountain.
A third group recalled a teacher saying that God only spoke the first commandment, “Ani Adonai Elohecha asher hotzeiticha mi-eretz Mitzrayim mibeit avadim – I am the Eternal your God, who led you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
One Jewish day school graduate said that he heard that God spoke only the first word of the first commandment, “Anochi – I (am)”.
I said that my teacher believed that God only spoke the first letter, Aleph, of the first word of the first commandment of the Ten Commandments, whose sound is silence.
Which is it Rabbi?
The people were perplexed. “Which is it, rabbi,” they wanted to know? What is the correct answer?”
I responded that since I was not there physically (though we all were spiritually present at Mt. Sinai according to the Jewish myth). So we have to closely read Torah which isn’t definitive. That is why the rabbis argue amongst themselves.
I think that each answer leads us to Truth:
From the idea that God just said Aleph, we learn that in silence, we can hear/experience God’s reality.
From the argument that God spoke just one word, “Anochi – I (am)”, then we learn that God is Existence, and that God exists as really and fully as do each of us.
From the notion that God said only the first commandment – that God took us out of Egypt from slavery, we learn that to be a Jew is to live a life that brings into the world the qualities of compassion and justice.
From the teaching that God spoke all Ten Commandments, we understand that these ten point us in the right direction, the beginning of our path toward holiness and ethical living.
And if God spoke every word of Torah, we can listen to any parasha, story, verse or word (or any of the 603,550 letters of Torah) and in it we can hear a hint of God’s Being.
Which is truth?
Each answer leads us to Truth. Many paths to the basic teachings of Jewish living.