Posts Tagged ‘Ten Commandments’

You heard it here first!

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Yitro - You heard it here first

Art by Maggidah Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D.
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"And G!d spoke all these words, saying…" (Parasha Yitro: Exodus 20:1)

Many of us have heard the lesson that all Jews were present at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given – created or not yet created. This, in itself, creates an interesting paradox.

This midrash takes the matter a step further: what of the events that transpired there, particularly what was spoken by the Eternal One? Listen:

R. Isaac said: The prophets received from Sinai the messages they were to prophesy to subsequent generations; for Moses told Israel: But with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our G!d, and also with him that is not here with us this day, etc. (Deut. 29:14). It does not say ‘that is not here standing with us this day,’ but just ‘with us this day:’ these are the souls that will one day be created; and because there is not yet any substance in them the word ‘standing’ is not used with them. Although they did not yet exist, still each one received his share of the Torah, including Malachi and Isaiah.

Not only did all the prophets receive their prophecy from Sinai, but also each of the Sages that arose in every generation received his wisdom from Sinai, for so it says, These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly… with a great voice, and it went on no more. (Deut. 5:19). R. Johanan said: It was one voice that divided itself into seven voices, and these into seventy languages. R. Simeon b. Lakish said: It was the voice from which all the subsequent prophets received their prophecy. The Sages said: It had no echo.

As to the view of R. Johanan, the following verse supports him, for it says, The Lord giveth the word; they that proclaim the tidings are a great host (Ps. 68:12).

Midrash Rabbah – Exodus XXVIII:6

According to this midrash, there are several elements to what was spoken at Sinai:

  1. It was spoken in several tongues, simultaneously;
  2. It was heard in even more tongues, again simultaneously;
  3. It was spoken with the single voice from which all wisdom and prophecy is received; and
  4. It had no echo.

Consider the first two points: G!d’s Voice is heard by each of us in the language (tongue) best suited to us. What a compelling case for the strength of diversity this makes! You and I each get to share in the Divine One’s wisdom (and other blessings), even though what I receive seems completely foreign to you!

The third point amplifies this, and brings it into the present: when we speak with wisdom, we are speaking the words / things we heard before we were conceived! How awesome, to think that the words that leave our mouths can have their direct source at Sinai! And what a responsibility for laShon haTov (good speech) that creates!

Now, the last point: that the Voice had no echo. What could this possibly mean? Here are my thoughts:

Think about echoes – what relationship do they have to their source? They sound similar, but they are diminished in power, and ultimately fade. They also "bounce" off solid objects, and seem to come to us from a very different direction than the source.

So, it seems to me, it is with G!d’s wisdom. It is never diminished, encounters no obstacles, and never comes from the "wrong" direction.

But that is just my interpretation – what do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!