But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִים מִי אָנֹכִי כִּי אֵלֵךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹה וְכִי אוֹצִיא אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם׃
וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי־אֶהְיֶה עִמָּךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ הָאוֹת כִּי אָנֹכִי שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת־הָעָם מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה
Here Moses introduces us to the concept of the reluctant prophet. In the initial moments of his Divine call to action, he feels uncertain and unworthy of the mission asked of him by God. In his unwillingness to act, Moses expresses a vulnerability rooted in the errors of his past which cloud his self-confidence. But in his greatest moment of self-doubt, Moses is reassured that God will support him and all of B’nei Yisrael throughout their journey from bondage to freedom.
Ramban’s Commentary on Psalm 47:6
עָלָה אֱלֹהִים בִּתְרוּעָה יְהֹוָה בְּקוֹל שׁוֹפָר
God ascends amidst blasting; YHWH, to the voice of the Shofar.
The medieval sage Nachmanides draws attention to the two names of God used within this verse. In the first half of the phrase, Elohim connotes justice or judgement. The second half refers to YHWH, often associated with the attribute of mercy. Elohim/judgement connects to the t'ruah call of the Shofar.
When the shofar is blown, the tekiah call both precedes and follows the t’ruah call. It is as a reminder that God’s judgement, on this Day of Judgement, is nonetheless enveloped in mercy.
1 Kings 19:11-13
“Come out,” God called, “and stand on the mountain before the Divine.” And behold, God passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of God; but God was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but God was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake—fire; but God was not in the fire. And after the fire—a soft sound of stillness.
And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice addressed him: “Why are you here, Elijah?”
וַיֹּאמֶר צֵא וְעָמַדְתָּ בָהָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לֹא בָרוּחַ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ לֹא בָרַעַשׁ יְהוָה׃
וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה׃
וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ וַיֵּצֵא וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הַמְּעָרָה וְהִנֵּה אֵלָיו קוֹל וַיֹּאמֶר מַה־לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ
As Elijah stands before God, he bears witness to God’s awesome majesty as displayed through powerful feats of the natural world. But the text teaches that despite these grandiose moments being caused by the power of God, God’s true presence was not in the wind, the rock, the earthquake, or the fire. Instead, God speaks to Elijah in the stillness which follows, which many have interpreted as a voice coming from within the prophet himself.
The High Holy Days elicit a wide spectrum of energies throughout the Days of Awe, and great moments of physicality as we sing, pray, beat our chests, prostrate, and fast. These outward expressions of faith must be balanced by an internal recognition, a dedicated listening for the sacred sounds of stillness which speak to us as individuals. Only then might we hear a voice, challenging us to focus and reflect on the question “Why are you here?”