to do this.

In writing the ‘ten commandments’, the account in Torah switches from God speaking of Himself in first person in the first two things while for the other eight, He is named in third person. One explanation given for this points to how the people couldn’t bear to hear God speaking anymore and asked Moses to relay the message as a prophet, saying that this happened after the giving of the first two.

There are many times in the scriptures when people encountered God’s presence or angel and felt that they would die. In this case it is even bigger, because what was being told was a set of covenant expectations that take Jews truly a lifetime to come closer to keeping and fully honouring. How could such a thing be heard from God Himself, before whom every aspect of the heart is exposed and in whose presence we exist, and are our true selves?

In a way there is a reason why it takes so long to learn. If we were expected to look at all the lack of holiness in ourselves and repair it immediately, rather than exploring the depths of obedience one thing at a time, it truly would cause us to die.

And yet there is a very full sense in which the person who stands before Hashem in prayer, both private prayer and that of the covenant nation, chooses to stand in the place of hearing the commandments from our Creator directly. They are offering their heart to Him, not to anything else in this world, with the desire to completely lose distractions. They become conscious of the gaze of the one who not only sees the heart fully but is worth everything. And they are committing their entire self to Him, not in a promise made outside His presence, but in the very place where humility lets Him in, or comes to be lost in His place: saying we will do and we will listen, because in that place we can hear Him speaking worlds of holiness.

To engage with this rather than pulling away is the most precious thing possible.


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