Revelation is the heart of Torah. “G-d spoke to you face to face,” Moshe reminds the people as he recounts the great event of Sinai in which they all took part (Deut. 5:4).
That we all took part in it is essential to the meaning of Sinai. The revelation described by the Torah was not the property of one leader alone, or of an elite group, whose report had to be taken as authoritative truth. The authority of the revelation in the Torah is rather to be vouched for by the experience and the memory of each one of the community. Just as the redemption from Egypt was unmediated – “Not by means of an angel, not by means of a seraph, not by means of an agent;” “I, G-d, I and no other” – so, too, was the revelation to which the redemption led: “There was no intermediary,” said Abraham ibn Ezra (ad loc.).
On the path up Mount Sinai. Credit: Creative Commons/Templar1307.
As it was at first, so it remains: the authority of the revelation is to be found within. Its authenticity emerges simultaneously with the emergence of the authenticity of the self. As interesting as all other arguments may be for Torah, this essential argument is not an argument at all. It is pre-argument – the same way that we come to know that we are who we are, that reality is as reality is, so do we intuit how the authority and authenticity of Torah is as it is.
How is the content of that revelation written down for the ages? In some ways, it is not written down, for if it is to be as immediate and present for us as our own identities, there is unfolding something new to say each moment. It is, as Moshe says later in Deuteronomy, “in your mouth and in your heart, as you do it.”
But some of it was written down, engraved in stone, as we have learned to say. And the very first word on the stone is anochi – I.
It is, as it appears in the book, as it appeared on stones, the I of G-d. But the mystics break the word down to its elemental letters, each of which can be re-expanded and then stand for a full word. ANoChY – Ana Nafshi Ketavit Yehavit – wrote My self down and gave it (Likkutei Torah 48d).
Beyond giving of law, beyond imposing an order, the root of the revelation, the root of the Torah is G-d’s giving of self.
The receiving of Torah must match the generosity and the creativity of the giving.