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  JEWISH AND KOSHER UNITED STATES       
 
 
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RABBI ASHER BRANDER Yisro
18 Shevat 5772 

By: Rabbi Asher Brander, rabbi@kehilla.org

 

TEACHINGS: IN DEPTH REFLECTIONS ON THE PARSHA - BY RABBI ASHER BRANDERIf you are interested in purchasing Teachings:  In Depth Reflections on the Parsha Email rabbibrander@linkla.org 

The Neshama Knows     

Sponsored in honor of Philip Marcus's engagement to Pamela Kleinman. May You build a beautiful home!
&
Russell Cowan's birthday May you keep on growing!
 

Immediately following the aseres hadibros (colloquially know as the Ten Commandments), the Torah relates:

 

And all the people saw the voices[1] and the torches, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled; so they stood from afar.

 

In this famously incomprehensible verse that speaks of seeing sound, Rashi reminds us of that midrash known to most Yeshiva schoolchildren.

 

The voices: They saw what was audible - which is impossible to see elsewhere. - [from Mechilta d'Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai]

 

A plain ole miracle - yet we must wonder: for what purpose? To Rashi, we shall return, but first a simple survey of non-Rashi approaches to the enigmatic notion of seeing the kolos [sounds]

 

1. Rosh - they benefited/enjoyed the voices as in v'ra'ah es ervasah ... which implies enjoy and not simply seeing

2. Rashbam - it refers to the hail-stones [as it says earlier [9:28] The sounds of Elokim and hail]

3. Rabbeinu Bechayei ... for the sound came amidst the fire as it says [Tehillim 29] the voice of Hashem pierces the blazes of fire and they saw the fire ... thus it says they saw the voices

4. Chizkuni - they observed the [reality of the] voices; i.e. the word ra'ah applies to that which can be deduced/intuited, even if it can not be seen. [as in the nation saw that Moshe tarried in descending the mountain - cf. Shemos 32:1]

5. Seforno - they reflected regarding the voices that they would not be able to tolerate them ... and did not want to die

 

For Rosh, it is physical enjoyment, for Rashbam/Rabbeinu Bechayei it is a vision amidst the sounds; for Chizkuni/Seforno, it is reflective [insight]. All of these p'shat oriented approaches remove the miraculous from seeing the sound - but leave us wondering regarding the epth of the moment.

 

In Rashi, we find great depth, but first we present Bnei Yisrael's response to this special sound/sight moment

They said to Moshe, "You speak with us, and we will hear, but let God not speak with us lest we die."  

 

Moshe comforts them:

But Moshe said to the people, "Fear not, for God has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin."

Something about God-Speech is too much for Bnei Yisrael. We seek to understand their anxiety.

 

For but a moment, we digress to the akeidas Yitzchak story. Hashem commands Avraham:

 

And He said, "Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you." [Bereishis, 22:2]

 

A few verses later the Torah relates:

 

On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.

 

Read carefully and notice that the text never relates that Hashem told Avraham which mountain it shall be ? It is a famous question that our classical meforshim deal with [cf. Rashi, Ramban ibid]. Herein, Rav Kook's [Olas Reiyah, pp. 87-88] stirring words:

 

The wondrous events that took place for the holy father during these 3 days of walking can not possibly be explained, fathomed or expressed - they reside in the hidden consciousness of the Holy of Holies.

 

That which occurred on the 3rd day - that a holy light appeared, in the place where there should have been speech to designate "the mountain that I shall tell you" - instead came a prophetic vision! For the soul rose to an elevated level where all the perceptions merge - speech and sight like all other spiritual phenomena that reside in the same domain.

 

Speech therefore was characterized in the form of vision and that holy sight so penetrated the deepest place of his [Avraham's] holy soul ... that he felt so deeply connected with the place that it was impossible to designate with some external sign .. rather it was that place so specially designated to concentrate the entire holiness of his life

 

Avraham never hears God "speak out" the mountain - for in the deepest place of his neshama, speech and sight merge; there one envisions with utter clarity what is that dibbur of Hashem. In Kotzker terminology, vision is external and speech comes from within. The merging of the two means that one can see deeply into the will of God.

 

Rav Kook goes further. It is not a matter of seeing deeper; rather when the neshama achieves utter synchronicity with the d'var Hashem, it has no need for external manifestations. Avraham at the apex of his spirituality was completely plugged into God's inner desire - his speech was to the point that there were no other options. It was as if the mountain unquestionably called out to him alone.

 

 That utter clarity point which melds speech and vision is a scary place to be at - for it is a moment without options - and free-willed Man always wants a choice[2] - another way to go [think double major and triple minors]. Perhaps it was this very fear that animates Bnei Yisrael - for too much God- speech meant being stuck in truth with no place to go. [We must leave Moshe's response for a different day]

 

And for us -  we who seek to grow in our Divine service - shall we also fear?  

 

Certainly!-  But let us take comfort in the knowledge that concomitant to the fear is the beautiful feeling of seeing/sensing and basking in the Divine words of pride and nachas that surely accompany every upward movement; words that touch our neshama and speak to us in the deepest places.  

 

Those are words we can surely feel and may someday even see.

 

Good Shabbos

Asher Brander


[2] This is the essence of Rav Elchana Wasserman's famous emunah conundrum [Kovetz Ma'amarim] , how can we obligate children to believe if philosophers struggled with the existence of God:

כי בדבר שהאדם משוחד, לא יוכל להכיר את האמת אם היא נגד רצונותיו, והוא כמו שיכור לדבר זה, ואף החכם היותר גדול לא תעמוד לו חכמתו, בשעה שהוא שיכור. ומעתה אין תימה מהפילוסופים שכפרו בחידוש העולם, כי כפי גודל שכלם עוד גדלו יותר ויותר תאוותיהם להנאות עולם הזה, ושוחד כזה יש בכוחו להטות דעת האדם, לומר, כי שתיפ עמיםשנים אינן ארבע אלא חמש ואין כח בשכל האדם להכיר את האמת ,בלתי אם אינו משוחד בדבר שהוא דןעליו.אבל אם הכרתה אמת היא נגד רצונותיו של האדם, אין כוח להשבל גם היותר גדול, להאיר את עיני האדם


 
   
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