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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

As God's Mountain Trembled

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Parshat Yitro documents the giving of the ten commandments. This revelation is at the core of the Jewish eperience and we learn from our tradition that the memory of this event is imprinted on all Jews for all times.

As I write this poem, I know in my heart that it has probably been written many times before by many poets in ways far more elegant and authentic, but on this page I have tried to imagine the anticipation of the event and contrast between the noise around the people, the silence of the camp and the prohibition of approaching the mountain. I hope that in some small way that I have captured that moment, not just for the people who were there, but for the many other witnesses to Sinai.

As God's Mountain Trembled

And the horns sounded

And the earth was unstable

And the pebbles huddled close together And the dust clung in fear to the earth And the wind stopped its weeping

And the air stood still And the lightning bolts stood at attention

And the ancient stones leaned on each other

And smoke permeated the air

And all were witnesses

As God's mountain trembled And the sun emerged from her golden covers and rose in the sky And the moon was suspended as an ivory witness

And the stars in the sky blinked their assent

And the planets observed with baited breath And dark clouds fiercely guarded the mountain And the armies of angels waited

As God's mountain trembled And the air was electric And the dogs retreated with tails between their legs

And the vultures spied from on high And the ibex ceased butting heads

And the field mice paused their dance

And the bird's wings were stilled

And the snakes retreated to their lairs

And the foxes halted their hunts

And the spiders spied through their webs As God's mountain trembled

And the smoke rose And the babes' eyes watched

And the women held their children tight

And tots buried their heads in their mother's robes

And peeked out in fear

And the children pretended to be brave

And the men trembled and bowed their heads

And the old were humbled and wept

And the thunder's bellows reached the ground

And were answered by the cry of the horns

And all hearts beat loudly as one strong heart

And all were in awe

As God's mountain trembled And it was a time like no other

And the people waited

And n'er a breath was drawn

And their eyes were unblinking as they stood witness

And although none touched the trembling mountain

None were left untouched

And the memory of that time was forever remembered

As God's mountain trembled

I cannot find the credit for this photo, but I took the image from

Exodus 19: 16-19. Translation from Sefaria

וַיְהִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֜י בִּֽהְיֹ֣ת הַבֹּ֗קֶר וַיְהִי֩ קֹלֹ֨ת וּבְרָקִ֜ים וְעָנָ֤ן כָּבֵד֙ עַל־הָהָ֔ר וְקֹ֥ל שֹׁפָ֖ר חָזָ֣ק מְאֹ֑ד וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃ On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.

וַיּוֹצֵ֨א מֹשֶׁ֧ה אֶת־הָעָ֛ם לִקְרַ֥את הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֑ה וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֖וּ בְּתַחְתִּ֥ית הָהָֽר׃ Moses led the people out of the camp toward God, and they took their places at the foot of the mountain.

וְהַ֤ר סִינַי֙ עָשַׁ֣ן כֻּלּ֔וֹ מִ֠פְּנֵי אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרַ֥ד עָלָ֛יו יְהוָ֖ה בָּאֵ֑שׁ וַיַּ֤עַל עֲשָׁנוֹ֙ כְּעֶ֣שֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁ֔ן וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָהָ֖ר מְאֹֽד׃ Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the LORD had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

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