Determined to get a bit of exercise after too many weeks of sitting, I took an early-morning stroll around the pond behind the hospital. Though small and artificially made, a surprising wealth of nature was packed in that haven. A family of fluffy goslings followed their mother, a heron took off, rabbits scampered, a beaver scuttled into the wetlands. The azure water, the chirping birds, the rich green plants were soothing. I could feel my racing mind slow, my breathing deepen. The hours under fluorescent lights negotiating a world of labs, computers, X-ray machines, diagnoses and opinions as I sat by my brother’s bedside and tried to advocate for him all faded. A sense of wonder and connection filled my being.

Nature has always been both a balm and a gateI could feel my racing mind slow, my breathing deepen for me ... a gate to G‑d, to infinity, to something deeper and more whole. It was through extended time away from the concrete roads and strip malls, meandering down dirt paths, through the slice of a canoe oar into a pristine lake that I came to sense a pulse of the universe as a searching teen.

As I walked back to the parking lot, through the revolving door and into the bustling hospital lobby, I felt renewed. I kept hearing echoes of the chirping and singing of the multitude of birds that had flocked to that small space. The calls, the sing-song were melodious signs, reminding me of something higher.

Back a few thousand years in the same time period I was in, during those weeks after Passover, the newly freed slaves were drawn towards a Divine song that would transform them and our world. Leaving bitter brokenness, walking and integrating, day by day, step by step towards healing and wholeness, towards their destiny, they learned, they repaired, and they got ready.

I can imagine a chorus of birds, of angels, of music of the soul healing them, starting faintly and growing in volume and dimension as they approached that mountain—that place where they would stand in unison and meet their Creator.

Music, spawned by nature and by humans, has a rich place in Jewish spirituality. Nigunim, wordless Chassidic melodies, have been dubbed the pen of the soul.1 They help the soul connect and ascend to realities beyond our limited words and intellect. A crucial part of the service in the Holy Temple was the music of Levites. More than accompanying melodies, their songs were guided by Divine inspiration to elevate each person in the exact way their soul needed. True music for the soul.2

The Zohar speaks at length about the meaning of birds and their various songs, their unadulterated praise of Hashem.3 The Baal Shem Tov and other mystics spent much time praying in the woods, their songs soaring aloft with these pure trills.

So surely, that timeless moment when the freed slaves were approaching, when the Torah would be given, when the highest spirituality united with the most base physicality would surely be accompanied by a symphony beyond symphonies, a crescendo of majesty, somehow combining the richness of nature’s lovely singers, and human’s finest and deepest offerings.

But at the moment of the revelation, as Moshe reached the peak of the mountain, there was silence.

The deepest, most complete silence. Not one bird chirped, not one dog barked, not one leaf rustled in the wind.4

Try sitting in complete stillness—as I instruct my preschoolers to—when we learn about this time. There are myriads of background noises, doors, voices, furnaces blowing. But at the giving of the Torah, there was none of this.

Just silence. Why?

Noise is a result of sound waves bouncing off an object. So, too, in a deeper sense, static and conflict in our lives is spiritual noise, Divine energy bouncing off of us. G‑d is continually radiating the most perfect and sublime energy of light and oneness. What keeps it from being absorbed? Ego, doubt, fear, unhealthy desires and distractions—all the myriad ways we get pulled off-course. All the myriad challenges that make us human and give us free choice—obstacles to ultimately make us stronger.

At the giving of the Torah there was an incredible infusion, a moment of totality and harmony. When G‑d’s infinite energy came all the way down, down, down into the lowest crags of our material world and was totally absorbed, resistance gone. Static gone. Silence. Not of an empty void, but of a unified harmony that transcends individual sounds.

That moment faded. Life and its challenges resumed. The Jews started kvetching and rebelling.

Today, we know that all too well. Moments ofMoments of utter power and beauty arise utter blackest, thickest resistance flare up. Rockets in Israel. Brutal murder in Poway. Too much of our world seems dense and impervious to any glimmer or shard of light.

But that nucleus remains. In each of our souls. In each kernel of creation.

Moments of utter power and beauty arise.

Our task? To remember who we are. The outpouring of love after attacks, the soulful, brave response of members of the community, the loveliest sunset, a newborn babe. Moments when we get a brief connection to that deep, encompassing primal oneness at our core.

Remember that sound of deepest silence, as we stand at the foot of Mount Sinai on this Shavuot. To let G‑d’s power enter and rejuvenate us, much as I pray for the forces of healing to rejuvenate my brother. And to keep peeling back the resistance, by using those powerful and true tools given to us each on that day. Working those mitzvot, working our souls, working our world to reveal the oneness at its core until that song of complete harmony pervades our daily, ordinary lives.5