The portion calls to mind one of the great questions of Jewish Thought: is the Giving of Torah something that happened just a single time in all of history? Or: does God reveal the Divine Presence to us over and over and over again throughout our lives (and through all time)?
Many of our finest rabbis over the centuries have associated themselves with the "one and done" school on this question. Sinai was one actual distinctive moment. The Torah and all of the rest of Jewish Law came forth from it. Our job is to respond to what was uttered (by God, according to this view) by following - as best we can - all of the commandments of Judaism.
But I prefer to situate myself in the "God still reaches out to us every single day" school of thought. Revelations of God's Holy Presence aren't delivered to us via nicely inscribed tablets any more. But philosopher Martin Buber suggests that Sinai is experienced and re-experienced every time two people are genuinely present and caring for one another. God reveals God's Self in the context of social ethics: the ways in which we look after one another.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shlomi stressed that Torah is never about the moment(s) it was given. Torah is about our ongoing journey towards receiving it. Reb Zalman (as he was known) suggested that our job was to turn ourselves into receptacles "made of our needs and questions. This process precipitates the drawing down out of a universe saturated with blessings just those things that your vessel requires. This is each person's Torah."
On this Shabbat in which we are privileged to once again celebrate the giving of Torah, may you be inspired to name just those blessings that you require - the nuggets of wisdom and healing that will make you whole. Then: make yourself into a vessel that you might seek out and find and internalize them, and find a greater sense of shleimut (peaceful completion) in the process.
Rabbi Jeffrey Brown
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Take a look at this article, which compares Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel's different approaches to the question of God's Revelation.
Check out the poem "We All Stood Together" for a beautiful feminist-inspired take on the Sinai moment.
The Golden Calf story (an important part of the Sinai narrative) reminds us what happens when we fail to open our eyes to God's Presence in the world. Re-live the camp of 1950s Hollywood with this scene from The Ten Commandments.