Revolution or evolution? These two buzz words exercise the minds of historians and social scientists in their quest to understand the directions of human life. There always seems to be two ways of doing things. On the one hand, the sudden, all embracing, revolutionary transformation, and on the other: the gradual, growth orientated, developmental approach.

Are these two approaches found in the world of Torah too? In fact they are. Let us see how.

More than 3,300 years ago, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai in the presence of the entire Jewish people. At that time there was thunder and lightning, the sound of a great shofar, and fear and trembling gripped the people. This was a truly intense experience, a revolution in human consciousness! It was a one-off event that would change the lives of everyone.

At the same time there is also a developmental aspect to the Giving of the Torah.

This is shown by examining the blessings on the Torah recited as part of the daily morning prayers. Similar blessings are also said when called up to the reading of the Torah in the synagogue.

One blessing ends with the words "...Blessed are You, O G‑d, who teaches Torah to His people Israel." Another blessing ends with the words "...Blessed are You, O G‑d, who gives the Torah." These blessings are in the present tense. Take the second blessing. Surely it should say "who gave the Torah" since it was a one-off historical event?

In fact, the text of these blessings is very precise. They are telling us that there is a dynamic and ongoing revelation of Torah throughout time: since Torah is infinite, there are always deeper and broader aspects of Torah waiting to be revealed.1

The Sages tell us that when learning Torah we should have a tremendous feeling of awe, as well as delight. For G‑d Himself is present in these teachings. Whenever we study Torah, in a sense it is a repetition of the Giving of the Torah. Just as then there was a sense of awe, so now when we study there should be a sense of awe. At the same time, our awareness of how remarkable and beautiful this experience is, imparts a feeling of delight... For G‑d is present and actually rejoicing in His Torah, every time that we pick up a Torah book and study a few lines, attend a Torah lecture, or (not on Shabbat) find some Torah teachings online.

This means that not only our knowledge of Torah but also the way we experience it is gradually increasing and developing all the way through our lives. We can learn the same passage hundreds of times, yet always with greater depth and meaning. And in the course of history, our Sages have revealed further dimensions of Torah, whether as halachah (law) applied to a new situation, or fresh perspectives in spiritual guidance.

All of these teachings were present in the original revolution, the one-time giving of the Torah, but waiting to be revealed. This takes place gradually, over the generations, as the Sages explain the interface of Divine Torah with daily life. In this way revolution combines with evolution, great changes with step-by-step development of our appreciation and experience of Torah. This double approach to the Torah will bring about the ultimate revolution: that of the Messiah, when the world and all aspects of life will be seen as expressing the Oneness of the Divine.