[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]
By David Zvi Kalman
And it came to pass that after the Israelites crossed the sea, they began to argue, each one with his neighbor, and they were very bitter until they could not argue any more, and each retreated to his own tent.
Therefore, when the Israelites arrived in the desert, God sent each one to the foot of a different mountain, one mountain for each man, each woman, and each child who had traveled through the desert, so that each would do and listen, each one according to his own religion and each one beneath his own tree. And all of Israel stood at the mountain, but they did not see each other.
And God stood above them, and his throne rested at the top of all the mountains.
And God said, “What are you doing here?”
And each one said, “I have been very zealous for you, the Lord of all the Hosts, but my brothers and sisters have already forsaken your covenant and destroyed all that is holy for you, and I, only I, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
And the desert was silent and there was no sound. And every one of the Israelites could hear the beating of his own heart, and the humming of her own blood – the blood, it is the soul – in her own body. And beneath the heart and the soul, softer still, was the voice of God.
And God said to each one, “I am the Lord your God, who took singular you out of Egypt, out of slavery. Singular you shall have no other gods before Me.” And God spoke to all of them, each according to their religion, in the same instant.
And when each one had heard the voice of the Lord, she became frightened to the utmost, and she fell to the ground, because the soul had left her body.
After that, each mountain began to argue, each saying, “Master of the Universe, I should be first, for the best Torah was given under me.”
And God took every mountain and fashioned them into a single mountain, and he returned the soul back into each one of the Israelites. And God held the mountain over their heads and said, “If you accept the Torah, all will be well. If not, this will be your burial place.”
And the people accepted the Torah. And the angels descended and gave each person two crowns, one for himself and one for his neighbor.
And God said, “Listen, O Israel –
David Zvi Kalman is Co-Founder and President, Jewish Public Media / Open Quorum, Hadar Campus Scholar and Doctoral Student at the University of Pennsylvania.
This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.