People live in varied situations. For one, it seems, everything is easy, for another there is one problem after another. Or a particular individual goes through different periods of his or her life. A time of ease and simplicity might be followed by a time of challenge. Hopefully, soon everything is calm again. But all too often it is not so simple.

A point in this week's Parshah helps us think about this subject. Let us see how.

The most remarkable event in history, ever, was the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Seven weeks after the Jewish people had left Egypt, they gathered at the mountain and experienced a revelation of G‑d. This event is described in the Torah in the Book of Exodus, which tells the story of the Jewish people leaving Egypt. It is also repeated in the portion of Va'etchanan in Deuteronomy, and when the Ten Commandments are read, everyone in the synagogue stands up.

A comment by Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitchaki, 1040-1105, the foremost commentator on Torah) helps us gain a sense of direction in life, with both its smooth paths and its challenges.

The Parshah tells us: "You have been shown so that you should know that G‑d is the ultimate Being, there is nought apart from Him" (Deut. 4:35).

Rashi comments on this:

When G‑d gave the Torah, He opened the seven firmaments for the Jewish people. Just as He tore the upper realms, so He tore the lower realms. They saw that G‑d is the ultimate reality.

What does this mean? Obviously, some kind of spiritual revelation. Imagine the stunning scenery of the Sinai mountain range, and suddenly being able to see in an extraordinary way. A mirage? A vision? A glimpse of a deeper reality?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that Rashi uses two different words for this experience: G‑d "opened" the spiritual realms, and also G‑d "tore" them. These two terms express two modes in our relationship with G‑d, and in G‑d's response to us.

The first is "opening". This means a healthy, step by step advance forward. You open a door, go through, and then you open another door. Healthy progress. This could be progress in life, from one stage to another; progress in Judaism, step by step, together with inner, spiritual progress and development.

Correspondingly, in response to our progress, G‑d "opens" the spiritual realms for us. Beautiful! Great!

It sounds good; but there is also another mode. This is when we face challenges. Difficult problems, which seem to envelop us. Everything is dark. But we are not cowed by this. We gather our courage and tear through.

G‑d responds to this by "tearing" the veils of existence. In a unique and incredible way, we glimpse intimations of goodness and holiness beyond anything we ever imagined. At that moment we see that all is One.

Through facing challenges, eventually we reach deeper and more incredible discoveries. That is the promise of the Torah, applying to every aspect of life.1