Last night, a strange storm rolled through our valley here. With smoke from the fire of neighboring states causing a perpetual haze above us, it would be easy to mistake an overcast sky for just more smoke. In any case, a storm rolled through soundlessly— that is until the deepest, loudest growling thunder I’ve ever heard tore through the night and woke both my husband and I up. It was both terrifying and exciting and it sounded so close that I fully expected to look out the window to find lightning dancing across the sky, rain pouring down, and hear more of creation’s drum line.
But there was nothing. I didn’t see a thing. There was a fog and some wind, but no lightning, no rain. Not even another roll of thunder. Eventually we went back to sleep, but I had stayed awake for a little while, wondering at the strangeness.
I’ve always, since I was a child, equated the voice of God to that of thunder. In fact, in Hebrew, the word for thunder “קולות - kholot” also means “voices” — which I didn’t discover until adulthood.
This morning, as I stretched and read the Shacharit blessings (the ones traditionally said in the morning), I read the line “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem”. In my experience, this concept is disliked about as much as it is liked. “I don’t want to have to be scared of my God,” “Fear is bad,” they say. But I argue something different.
When we walk alongside a busy road, we have a level of fear that, if anything were to go wrong, we could be seriously hurt by the big machines whizzing by. If you’ve ever seen a very large animal, like a horse or a bear, with nothing between you and it, don’t you keep your distance? Do you run up and grab at a flame? Why not?
Fear and respect go hand in hand, I think. Wisdom would tell you to be wary of these things, don’t go empty handed or unprepared. It is wise to fear the ruthlessness of an avalanche, the wild strength of a swift river, the unforgiveness of a stone. I respect the power over me that these things maintain because they simply are what they are. How much more is the Creator of these things?
Now, I don’t just sit here thinking of all the ways daily living could go wrong. I also know what HaShem promises: provision, shelter, love, guidance… But sometimes the only way to learn important lessons is by reflecting on wild, harsh truths.
So I hear the voice of God, and I am reminded how small I am, how fragile life is. I am comforted as well as awestruck by such a GREAT (as in big, vast) and powerful sound. This is today’s lesson for me.