Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do you echo?

You know that feeling when you stop at a Joburg intersection and a taxi pulls up next to you, heavy bass booming from his radio, into your car, through your chest and stomach and out the other side? That is a sampling of what the Jews felt like at Mt. Sinai.

When G-d’s voice blasted the Ten Commandments at us from all six directions, it produced the most powerful sound every heard by humans. G-d’s thundering announcements hurled the people hundreds of metres backwards, knocking their souls our of their bodies. G-d had to dispatch an emergency angel team to revive them and bring them back to the foot of the mountain.

Every nation in the region quaked from the intense sound. Birds stopped chirping, animals froze and nature paused as the Divine sonic boom overwhelmed them all.

But, the powerful noise did not echo.

If you have ever visited the Sinai, you will know how stark and rocky it is. In that stony, sandy environment, you would think that every sound should echo, certainly a very loud one. Why did G-d’s voice defy nature and not reverberate?

The simple science of echoes might help us understand. Noise is really a series of sound-waves that emit from a source. If those sound-waves hit an obstacle that will not absorb them, they bounce back in the direction they came from. This is an echo.

Torah and its directives are designed for the real world. G-d does not want us to escape normal life to attain spirituality; He wants us to embed holiness within the normal life that we live. In other words, He intended His message to sink in to the world, not to bounce off its surface. If His message had echoed, it would have implied that it was too spiritual and could not be absorbed by our world.

On Shavuos you should ask yourself: “Do I echo?”

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