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On Receiving Resonance

On Shavuot, we celebrate Sinai, that moment when an entire people stood at the base of the mountain and received revelation. Revelation came in the form of the Ten Commandments. I was fascinated to discover some years ago that "commandments" is a complete mistranslation. According to Rabbi Gavriel Cousens in his Torah as a Guide to Enlightenment, a much more accurate translation would be speakings or resonances or utterances. As a sound healer with a fixation with the character and potency of the Hebrew letters themselves, I was completely enchanted. 

R. Cousens writes that the Ten Speakings are much more sophisticated than a simple set of golden rules or commandments. It is not just dogma about reward and punishment. They are a way of life that supports and guides spiritual transformation, bringing closer the possibility of deveikut and cheriyut (cleaving to God and enlightenment), so that the grace of God may help us know our oneness. He goes on to draw parallels between each of the Ten Utterances and the Ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life.  

"We are people of God (ie open to the unknown) walking like Moshe up the mountain into the Great Mystery, guided by the great enlightenment way of Torah and the Ten Resonances. The fundamental deep teaching of parasha Yitro (which tells the story of the receiving of the Ten Utterances)  is that Torah was given as a guide to help bring us closer to the Great Mystery", he says.

Midrash describes the Sinai moment as a kind of spiritual and physical synesthesia, a moment when lightning was heard and thunder was seen, a moment when each person received revelation in a form that was uniquely understandable and absorbable, a moment in which energy was so intense that the people could only receive the first silent alef of the first word, Anochi/I. 

My image, On Receiving Resonance, was inspired by my imaginings of what it might have been like, standing at the base of the mountain of smoke and fire, with sound and light fractured, fractalled and reforming. I don't think I could have survived the primordial ferocity of such an experience. I imagine I would have to receive it in some form recognisable in this dense and obscured world of assiyah - perhaps each resonance drifting downwards like the lightest of feathers with the letters themselves rearranged into words and sentences that speak directly to the greater reality that holds us all. Rabbi Shefa Gold's riffing on the Ten Speakings are particularly meaningful to me.: "Obviously God is the true reality. Bowing down to my own illusions would be silly".


Chana-Toni Whitmont is a collage artist, crystal sound practitioner, creative, teacher and student whose practice and passions are born from her spiritual connection to her Jewish lineage and the ebbs and flows in the annual calendar cycle. She lives on magnificent Bidjigal, Birrabirragal and Gadigal Country (also known as Bondi), on the Pacific coast of Australia.


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