On Mount Sinai G-d Gave Himself
by Mendel Weinberger
The roll of thunder breaks the silence, the lightning strikes across the sky, and the blast of the shofar is heard loud and long across the desert sand. The mountain is quaking and smoking with fire. Then the voice of G-d comes booming out from all directions saying, "I am the L-rd your G-d, who took you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
All the children of Israel heard and their souls left their bodies. It was an awesome moment, one that left its mark on the Nation of Israel for all generations. We know that G-d gave us the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai, but what is the inside story of what happened on that special day.
To understand this we must first explain how G-d creates and maintains the physical world. The wisdom of kabalah teaches that G-d uses two kinds of light to infuse life force into the world. They are called light but not in the physical sense, rather in the sense that while light radiates outward it always remains connected to its source. Ohr penimi is the filling light. Its source is the name Elokim (G-d). Ohr penimi relates to each individual creation and gives it its life force according to the capacity of its body.
A stone receives a relatively low level of energy to create it and maintain its existence. It is inanimate, dense in its molecular structure, and doesn't change over time.
A tree receives a very different type of life force. It does grow and change and has a much more complex and varied structure.
An animal needs an even higher light to create it. It moves and has a complicated nervous, digestive, and respiratory system. And of course there are thousands of species within the animal kingdom, each one receiving the life force it needs to maintain its body and soul.
Human beings receive the highest level of light because 'man' is the most complex of all creatures. It is only the human being who possesses a brain capable of abstract thought and language. And only a person has a highly developed emotional sensitivity to others. This ohr penimi is what creates and maintains differences between people and all other aspects of creation.
Yet there is a second kind of light called ohr makif , the surrounding light. Its source is the Tetragramaton, the four-letter name of G-d that we don't pronounce it as it is written. This light surrounds everything in creation equally. In a way similar to the way the atmosphere surrounds the earth and everything in it, so this ohr makif surrounds all physical and spiritual worlds.
Another metaphor for this light is the letters and words on a page. Each letter has its own special form and sound, and each word has a particular meaning. But one can only decipher the meaning when the letters are written against a white background. This white space surrounds each letter and word equally and one does not really notice it at all. But without the white space, the page would be totally black and meaningless.
The source of all of nature is the name Elokim and the 'background' of this creation is from the Tetragramaton. On Mt. Sinai G-d said, "I (anochi) am the L-rd your G-dů". Both of these names are united in the 'I'. This I is G-d's essence. It has no definition and no boundaries. We can't even say it is infinite because G-d's essence is beyond even the description infinite.
This anochi is what was implanted in the soul of every member of the House of Israel and to all the souls of those destined to be born in future generations. This is the great event we celebrate on the Festival of Shavuout - the day when G-d gave us Himself.
from the June 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine