The following is from the book, Freedom Journeys, written by Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, published by Turner Publishing Co., 2011.
Are the people ready for Sinai?
Seven weeks they have been walking from the Narrows through the
open wilderness that is the Land of No One
In Hebrew, “Wilderness” is “midbar.”
It could be understood as “midaber,” — “wording,
speaking,” — or “m’devar/ m’dibbur,” “away
from word, without a word, beyond words.”
A speaking beyond words.
In our own generation, on many nights in “Midbar
sinai,” the Wilderness of Sinai, hundreds of pilgrims from many religions
and from all around the world spend all night climbing the mountain that either
is or isn’t the mountain where the People Israel once upon a time assembled,
In their generation long ago, they too struggled over
crags and crevices to hear the Teaching that was beyond words.
Yes, beyond words. Indeed, one teaching about the Teaching says
no word at all was spoken — only an aleph, the first letter of the Ten Words
that have come down to us.
The aleph is a letter with no sound of its own. Only the silent
sound made by an open throat. From just the truth that the Universe wants to
speak with us, opens its throat to speak with ua, comes all the rest, for
us to figure out: Don’t kill — Don’t breathe without remembering
that each breath is the Name of the One Breath — Don’t take a useful
part of the Whole and carve it out from all the flow, make it an idol, rigidify
it and bow down to it — Don’t steal from another’s share of the
great Abundance, for then the Abundance will wither —
All that wisdom, encoded in just the open throat of the World
that wants to speak.
And when the many diverse pilgrims look out today at dawn just
as those walkers in the Wilderness looked out so long ago at dawn, across
millennia they join to sing and sob in joy, they look to the nearby mountains
and see — the Tablets!
The mountains themselves, in their geological formations,
looking like the conventional images of the Tablets that we see in our art and
on many synagogues. Running across them are horizontal outcroppings,
grooves, furrows, horizontal bands of rough outjutting rock
separated from each other by horizontal bands of smoothness. Layer
on layer, the outcomes of convulsive wordless history.
Outcroppings that can ALMOST be read. Beyond words.
The Tablets of the earth itself and the Utterances of the earth
Now the people are ready.