When teaching the revelation at Sinai to children, I help them try to connect to the experience as described in the Torah by saying that it was the greatest sound and light show ever. There was lightning, smoke and thunderous noise, an experience that would overwhelm the senses of sight and hearing. For adults, take the most over-the-top rock show you’ve ever seen, complete with the pyrotechnics, and then multiply that times 100. That is what the Torah describes the experience at Sinai to involve. It’s overwhelming, powerful, an almost uncontrolled release of power from God.
Sadly, this past week has shown us another example of an uncontrolled release of power, this time from nature. The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has been utterly devastating, reminding all of us that natural disasters are very hard to predict and even harder to prepare for. The tragedy of tens of thousands of lives lost, and the additional suffering that the survivors will have to endure is difficult to comprehend. Even the videos and pictures of the collapsed buildings are difficult to experience and bear witness.
Revelation at Sinai was not a natural disaster, far from it. Yet, there are some striking similarities between the scene at Sinai and the scenes in Turkey and Syria, most notably an immense power that overwhelms.
The Hebrew word for earthquake is רעש, which also means Noise. We can only imagine the noise of Sinai and the noise of the earthquake. May those who are injured recover, those who are without homes find shelter, and those who are grieving find support. For us, let our ears be open to the noise of suffering, wherever it may be, and may we be moved to act to alleviate suffering where we can.