The haftarah for the first day of Shavuot1 is Ezekiel’s vision of the Divine Chariot.2 We are told that at the Giving of the Torah (which Shavuot celebrates), every Jewish person experienced the Divine Chariot similar to Ezekiel.3

Even though this is true, it seems to be a side note; the main event was that G‑d spoke to us face to face and gave us the Torah. So why do we read this haftarah? Also, when we read the Ten Commandments in parshat Yitro, we read the vision of Isaiah,4 which is less detailed and more focused on G‑d, and seems to be more in sync with the Giving of the Torah, experiencing G‑d. Why don’t we read that haftarah on Shavuot?

As a general rule, we are forbidden to teach about the Divine Chariot, even in a small group, because of its holy and esoteric nature. Yet here it is being read for the whole community. Why?

We must conclude that there is something unique about the Divine Chariot of Ezekiel that fits the theme of Shavuot and the reading of the Giving of the Torah, and that there is a lesson that each of us can take from the Divine Chariot without exposing its deep secrets.

The Talmud5 says that the difference between visions of Isaiah Ezekiel is the difference between the experiences of someone who lives in a big city compared to someone from a small town. When the king comes with his whole entourage, the city dwellers don’t get all excited by the fancy carriages, the uniforms and the royal display because they see it all the time. Their only excitement is in seeing the king himself. On the other hand, when the small-town folk see the entourage—being that they never experienced such a display—every detail is exciting. They get lost in the fancy carriages and uniforms, and the king is but the center of the whole experience.

In actuality, their visions were the same. The difference was how they expressed what they saw.

Isaiah is like the big-city dweller. Accustomed to the spiritual realms, he doesn’t get excited about the details. His only excitement is in seeing G‑d. Ezekiel, like the person from a small town, was not accustomed to the spiritual realms. For him, every minor detail was exciting.

The difference between the two visions is that in Isaiah’s, the focus is G‑d, and in Ezekiel’s, the focus is on the details, from which G‑d’s greatness is experienced.

From Ezekiel’s words, we understand that his vision was a likeness of the higher realms, as he constantly uses the word “likeness.”6 Whereas Isaiah just says what he saw as the higher realms were open to him.

Now we can understand why we read Ezekiel’s vision of the Divine Chariot. The main idea of the Giving of the Torah was that G‑d descended on Mount Sinai. It was the connecting of the higher and lower realms. Even though they were always connected, the connection was hidden and inaccessible. Everything down here in the physical world is a reflection of what exists in the higher realms. And everything down here has its source in the higher realms.7 Before the Torah was given, we couldn’t understand the higher realms from what we experienced below. All that changed when G‑d descended on Mount Sinai to give us the Torah. Now we can understand the higher realms from what we see in the physical world. Through our efforts, service to G‑d and doing mitzvahs, we reveal and see the Source in everything, and we draw G‑dliness from above into this physical world.

We don’t see it directly. We only can understand it indirectly, like Ezekiel’s vision of the Divine Chariot, where he only saw a likeness, from which he understood the higher realms.

Even though not everyone is allowed to learn the details and the secrets of the Divine Chariot, this general idea—that through our efforts we can reveal this connection—can be understood by all and does not infringe on its esoteric properties.

This will also explain why the haftarah skips one-and-a-half chapters and concludes with, “And the spirit carried me and I heard a great mighty sound behind me, ‘Blessed is the Glory of G‑d from its place.’ ”8

In the morning prayer before reciting the Shema, we say, “And the Ofanim and Holy Chayot rise up with a great mighty sound towards the Seraphim, facing them they praise and say, ‘Blessed is the Glory of G‑d from its place.’ ”

Seraphim, Ofanim and Holy Chayot are different types of angels. Why do the Ofanim and Holy Chayot make so much noise when they say their prayer? Why do they say “from its place?” Why don’t the Seraphim make noise?

When we recognize that reality is different from our perception, we are amazed, and this creates a great excitement. This is what the Ofanim and Chayot experience when they recognize that G‑d is creating everything; from their perception, the world is real. But when they realize it is really G‑d that makes everything exist, they get excited. And that is the cause of the “great mighty sound.”

They say “from its place,” implying distance, because they don’t see G‑d. They understand Him through their reality, and although it’s very exciting, it’s still distant.

The Seraphim are from a higher realm. They are not excited because they see G‑d; it’s nothing new to them.

This is also why by the Giving of the Torah there were “sounds and lightning.”9 It wasn’t to frighten us; hearing G‑d speak is frightening enough. Rather, it was the excitement of the new idea and ability entering the world—the notion that we can bring heaven and earth together, and draw G‑dliness down into the physical world.

This all began at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. When our work is done, the world will be full of G‑dliness and Moshiach will come.10

May we merit finishing the work that our ancestors started and witness the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.