Parshat Mishpatim

Torah Reading for Week of February 15-February 21, 2009

“Divine Nourishment”

by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
AJRCA Professor of Talmud

In Parshat Mishpatim, we read that “Moses, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu and 70 Israelite elders went up the mountain…they had a vision of the Divine, and they ate and drank.” If you saw G-d, would your first impulse be to eat and drink? Why would these distinguished leaders react to a spiritual vision in such a seemingly mundane manner?

The Zohar teaches that Moses, together with his entourage, decided to climb Mount Sinai because they were, in fact, hungry and thirsty. They set out on this journey out of a need for sustenance, and they were all aware that the type of nourishment they were seeking resided at the top of Mount Sinai. Moses, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu, and the 70 Israelite elders were hungry for spiritual enlightenment, and they were thirsty for divine radiance. They were hungry and thirsty for G-d, and they set out to climb Mount Sinai in order to satiate their hunger and quench their thirst for the divine.

Upon reaching the summit of the mountain, they encountered a vision of the divine, described by the Torah as “the whiteness of sapphire, with the essence of a clear blue sky.” They saw the divine Throne of Glory (which according to Ezekiel is made of Sapphire) floating through the clear blue sky, the essence of spiritual purity. As they stood there and witnessed this divine radiance, what was their reaction? “They ate and drank” – they tasted the spirit of G-d, and drank from G-d’s divine fountain. As the Zohar teaches, “The vision of the divine nourished them, they were fed the light of G-d.”

Every single one of us can partake of the same divine meal that nourished Moses and the elders. We all have the potential to “climb Mount Sinai and have a vision of the divine” in our own lives. Follow the advice of Rabbi Azriel of Gerona (13th Century Kabbalist), and perhaps you, too, can find yourself on the top of Mount Sinai seeing G-d: “Whatever positive energy one implants firmly in the mind becomes the essential thing. So if you pray or offer a blessing to G-d, imagine that you are light. All around you, in every corner and on every side, is light. Between them, up above, the light of the Divine Presence. Surrounding that, the light of life. Above it all, a crown of light – crowning the aspirations of thought, illuminating the paths of imagination, spreading the radiance of the vision. This light is unfathomable and endless.”

If we all seek to bring this light into our lives, we can climb Mount Sinai every day.

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