Merkaz Anash, Beis Hamedrash L’shluchim and COLlive.com present The Chassidic Perspective with Rabbi Yoel Kahn, a weekly short webcast on topics that are timely and relevant.
Rabbi Kahn, often referred to as “Reb Yoel,” is the most preeminent authority on Chabad-chassidic teachings and was the chief reviewer and transcriber of the discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Kahn is also the lead editor of Sefer Ha’erechim, a multi-volume encyclopedia of abstruse chassidic and mystical concepts and the head Mashpia at the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY.
This webcast is delivered in Yiddish and a transcription in English appears below or can be printed in a PDF format.
Our parsha describes Hashem at Matan Torah as speaking in a “great voice which didn’t end” even after the event was over. The Midrash explains this statement in three ways: 1) The original voice split into seven sounds which were then further divided into the seventy languages, 2) Every future prophet derived his prophecy from that ‘signal,’ and 3) There was no bas kol, or echo. How do these interpretations explain the posuk?
The first seems to be that Hashem’s voice was so great that it didn’t stop until it had rendered itself into all seventy languages. The second appears to say that the sound remained potent throughout time as the source of all subsequent prophecy. But isn’t the third suggesting the opposite, since the lack of an echo indicates that the sound was rather weak?
A New Level
The Rebbe explains that the Aseres Hadibros were on a level beyond anything the Jews had ever observed before. The dibros were certainly greater than the mitzvos they had done previously without being instructed at all, and even Hashem’s prior commandments could not compare to the bar set at Matan Torah. In fact, the Rambam writes that we don’t perform bris mila because Avraham was told to do so by Hashem, but rather due to being commanded later at Sinai.
Chassidus elaborates based on the Gemara which states that “Anochi” stands for “Ana Nafshi Ksavis Yehavis,” that Hashem “wrote Himself into” the Aseres Hadibros and all of Torah. The mitzvos which existed previously represented lower levels of Elokus, while Matan Torah introduced Hashem Himself, Atzmus, into Torah and into everything it instructs us.
Even in English
This is reflected in the “great voice which didn’t end:”
1) The sound is said to have split into seventy languages: While it seems sensible to state that only the Torah in the original Lashon Hakodesh contains Hashem’s essence, and that learning it in another language would appear to lose this element in translation, the truth is that this apparent subtraction is only external. This is in fact the point of dira b’tachtonim, where Torah melds with the lowest levels of reality. Thus the “great voice” “didn’t end” with the holy tongue, but entered all seventy languages, which is also why a lot of Gemara and even some parts of Tanach contain words from other languages like Aramaic.
Additionally, the Rambam states that the seventy nations must observe the sheva mitzvos bnei no’ach not out of personal conviction and agreement but because Hashem commanded them, reiterating at Matan Torah that their tradition dating back to No’ach had been reaffirmed. Thus the revelation at Sinai permeates the languages of all seventy nations, and even their mitzvos, in a sense.
A Pre-Planned Schedule
2) All future prophecy emanated from the original sound at Matan Torah: While actual prophets obviously only repeated what they had heard directly from Hashem, we could wonder whether their prophecies or the interpretations of later sages were on par with the sanctity of the Written Torah. And what about the completely original takanos that were enacted in later periods?
But the truth is that every aspect of the Oral Torah, like the Rabbinical interpretations of pesukim, even where they are subject to dispute per the Thirteen Middos with which the Torah is analyzed, is equally spoken in Hashem’s voice, and is akin to anything that was stated explicitly at Matan Torah. The same applies to the unanimous Rabbinic ordinances throughout the centuries which have Hashem’s Essence written into themselves as well. The differing eras during which these seemingly new ideas appeared simply reflect a divinely pre-planned schedule, and are another expression of the never-ending quality of the “great voice.”
Permeating the Heel
3) Finally, there was no echo: An echo is the reverberation of sound, like a ball hitting the wall and bouncing back, namely a reaction to the inability to travel further; Hashem’s voice never echoed because instead of being halted, it was absorbed into everything.
This isn’t just a recounting of what occurred then, but is eminently relevant to us now: The “voice” of the Torah we learn today also permeates and affects all of our surroundings. The Gemara states that the walls of our homes will testify in the future to our accomplishments because our actions impact the inert objects in our vicinity, even if it won’t be apparent until later.
We must learn Torah and do mitzvos in a manner which penetrates the domem, the inanimate, not just our walls and ceiling but the domem inherent in us. Our heads understand, our hearts feel, but there must also be “eikev asher shama Avraham,” our ‘heels’ must also feel. This is like Chazal’s statement that Torah is secured when it is observed by all 248 limbs. Thus the “great voice” is present both in every language and aspect of the world, in every part of the Torah, no matter its nature and provenance, and is absorbed even by the domem in the world and within us.
For further learning see לקוטי שיחות חלק ד’ פרשת ואתחנן.