“Moses awoke early in the morning and climbed Mount Sinai.” (Ex. 34:4)
The text emphasizes that Moses ascended the mountain at daybreak to receive the Torah. The Sages taught that Moses’ subsequent descent from Sinai to transmit the Torah to the people also took place at first light. “Just as his ascent was at daybreak, so, too, his descent was at daybreak” (Shabbat 86a). Why is the hour of these events so significant?
The quality of Moses’ prophecy was without equal. The Sages compared the unique clarity of his prophetic vision to an aspaklariah me’irah, a clear, transparent lens. This metaphor expresses the unique authenticity of the Divine revelation to Moses, to whom God spoke “face to face, in a vision and not in allegories” (Num. 12:8).
What made Moses’ vision so uniquely accurate? His prophesy was true to its original Divine source; it was not influenced by societal needs or political considerations. On the contrary, it is this pristine Divine revelation that dictates the proper path for society, the nation, and the entire world.
For this reason, the Torah stresses the hour of this historic event. Moses began his ascent to Sinai at first light — before the day’s social interactions — thus indicating that the revelation at Sinai was independent of all social, political, and practical accommodations. It is precisely due to the Torah’s absolute integrity that it has the power to vitiate life and renew creation, to refine humanity and uplift the world to the heights of purity and holines
The Sages added an important corollary to this insight. It was not just Moses’ original revelation that was free of worldly influences. The Torah’s transmission to the people also retained its original authenticity. “Just as his ascent was at daybreak, so, too, his descent was at daybreak.” The Torah’s laws do not reflect the influence of social and political necessities. The Torah is the light of the Creator, the Divine Will giving life to the world, propelling the universe to advance in all aspects, material and spiritual.
The Torah that Moses brought down to the people of Israel was the exact same Torah that he received on Sinai — a complete Torah of absolute truth, transcending the limitations of our flawed world. ‘His descent was at daybreak,’ unaffected by the day’s social interactions. The Torah remained pure, brought down to the world through the spiritual genius of the master prophet.
(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV on Shabbat 86a (9:16).)
Copyright © 2010 by Chanan Morrison