Parshat Yitro: Mt. Sinai in Three Dimensions

Study Aid for Recorded Lecture:

The Four Audio Visual Images at Mount Sinai

The Torah gives a four-image description of the experience of Israel at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

The people saw:

  1. The voices
  2. The torches
  3. The blast of the shofar
  4. The smoking mountain

The second and fourth images are visual. Paradoxically, the first and third images are actually audio images that at Sinai were perceived visually as well. This is because the experience reached such a deep point in the soul that the physical senses intermingled.

The first three revelations are supernatural. They did not take hold in reality. The fourth image of the smoking mountain is physical. The fire took hold of the mountain and was seen in reality as smoke.

These four images correspond to the four letters of God's Name:

imageletter of Havayah  sefirahtouched reality through  manifestation  
voicesyudwisdom (chochmah)eyesound of Ten Commandments being spoken by God
torchesheiunderstanding (binah)mindperception of heavenly torch
shofarvavsix emotions of heart (chesed to yesod)heartshofar awakens emotions
smokehei  kingdom (malchut)eye/taste

union of three dimensions of reality

The final image of smoke is the one that lingers longest in our mind and that should accompany us as we daily receive the Torah anew. What does smoke represent?

The Three Dimensions of "Smoke"

Hebrew letterdimensioncoordinatespowerpositive manifestationHebrew meaningexperience
ayinspace (olam)up-down
to discern between light and darknesslighteyeto correctly perceive reality
shintime (shanah)past-futureto discern between truth and falsehoodtruthtooth
to correctly integrate reality

soul (nefesh)

good-badto discern between good and evilgood

When we meditate on the image of the smoking mountain, we should attempt to experience the merging of light, truth and good, and unite the perceptions of sight and taste to merit to receive the Torah anew every day.

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