A little while ago I promised myself that I would adopt the practice of writing a d'var Torah every week (or as close to weekly as I could manage). The discipline has three happy results: it keeps me engaged with Torah study, it prepares me well for the Torah study sessions I'm currently leading as part of each week's Shabbat morning service, and it gives me something to share with the fine folks who read Radical Torah.
This week Jews around the world are focusing on parashat Yitro. In shul we'll be reading the story of the revelation of the aseret ha-dibrot, those famous Ten Utterances, and looking at several interpretive midrashim about how the revelation happened. In the d'var I just posted at RT, though, I opted to focus on the implications of Exodus 20:22, a verse which which instructs the Israelites to make altars only out of earth or whole stones, not out of stones which have been hewn. Here's a taste:
What makes this injunction most powerful is that it comes on the heels of the revelation at Sinai, arguably the most transcendent experience imaginable. Thunder! Celestial fireworks! A voice from the heavens! This is the pinnacle of religious experience, a direct moment of contact with God at God's most transcendent. Torah immediately moderates that story with a reminder not to ignore the holiness immanent in creation. It is incumbent upon we creatures of the earth to connect with God using the earth in which we're planted and from which we live.
Read the whole d'var here: Earth and whole stones.