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Divine Double-Talk:


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Source Sheet by David Ingber
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Created May 21, 2015 · 1239 Views · נוצר 21 May, 2015 · 1239 צפיות ·

  1.  The virtue of the narrative, therefore, is that it engages with the ambivalences, the attraction and the repulsion, of one who, against all odds, approaches Sinai. If therapeutic language is to give life, it must address a real trauma, a wound inflicted, in a sense, by the very encounter with God.


    Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb (2011-02-01). The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus (Kindle Locations 5806-5814). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  2. So after Freud, if we are to take him on his own terms, our knowledge of his, or of anyone else’s, life— and indeed our wish for knowledge about his life— has to be tempered with a certain irony. Where we love we always hate, and vice versa. We are wanting more life for ourselves but we are also wanting, in one of Freud’s memorable phrases, “to die in our own way.” We are full of vitality but, he tells us in Beyond the Pleasure Principle ( 1920), we crave inertia, insentience. We want to get better but we love our suffering. What Freud increasingly found most difficult to cure in his patients was their (mostly unconscious) wish not to be cured. In his search for cures, Freud found just how incurable we are; that is, he found how much pleasure we can get from our suffering...


    Phillips, Adam (2014-05-27). Becoming Freud (Jewish Lives) (pp. 11-13). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

  3. (ט) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יי אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י בָּ֣א אֵלֶיךָ֮ בְּעַ֣ב הֶֽעָנָן֒ בַּעֲב֞וּר יִשְׁמַ֤ע הָעָם֙ בְּדַבְּרִ֣י עִמָּ֔ךְ וְגַם־בְּךָ֖ יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לְעוֹלָ֑ם וַיַּגֵּ֥ד מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם אֶל־יי (י) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יי אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ לֵ֣ךְ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ֥ם הַיּ֖וֹם וּמָחָ֑ר וְכִבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃ (יא) וְהָי֥וּ נְכֹנִ֖ים לַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י כִּ֣י ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י יֵרֵ֧ד יי לְעֵינֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם עַל־הַ֥ר סִינָֽי׃ (יב) וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ סָבִ֣יב לֵאמֹ֔ר הִשָּׁמְר֥וּ לָכֶ֛ם עֲל֥וֹת בָּהָ֖ר וּנְגֹ֣עַ בְּקָצֵ֑הוּ כָּל־הַנֹּגֵ֥עַ בָּהָ֖ר מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃ (יג) לֹא־תִגַּ֨ע בּ֜וֹ יָ֗ד כִּֽי־סָק֤וֹל יִסָּקֵל֙ אוֹ־יָרֹ֣ה יִיָּרֶ֔ה אִם־בְּהֵמָ֥ה אִם־אִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יִחְיֶ֑ה בִּמְשֹׁךְ֙ הַיֹּבֵ֔ל הֵ֖מָּה יַעֲל֥וּ בָהָֽר׃ (יד) וַיֵּ֧רֶד מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִן־הָהָ֖ר אֶל־הָעָ֑ם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַֽיְכַבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃








    (יח) וְהַ֤ר סִינַי֙ עָשַׁ֣ן כֻּלּ֔וֹ מִ֠פְּנֵי אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרַ֥ד עָלָ֛יו יי בָּאֵ֑שׁ וַיַּ֤עַל עֲשָׁנוֹ֙ כְּעֶ֣שֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁ֔ן וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָהָ֖ר מְאֹֽד׃

    (9) And G-d said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.’ And Moses told the words of the people unto the G-d. (10) And G-d said unto Moses: ‘Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their garments, (11) and be ready against the third day; for the third day G-d will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (12) And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying: Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it; whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death; (13) no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live; when the ram’s horn soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.’ (14) And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their garments.


    (18) Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because G-d descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

  4. (ד) את דברי העם וגו' . תשובה על דבר זה שמעתי מהם שרצונם לשמוע ממך!

    " אינו דומה השומע מפי השליח לשומע מפי המלך, רצוננו לראות את מלכנו":

    I have an answer...I heard from them that they want to hear {directly} from You! "one can't compare hearing from a messenger to hearing from the King Himself...we want to see our King"

  5. (ב) פן יהרסו וגו' . שלא יהרסו את מצבם על ידי שתאותם אל יי לראות ויקרבו לצד ההר:


    (2) Lest they break through that they don't destroy their 'standing' through their desire to see G-d, coming {too close} to the mountain side.

  6. Rashi’s narrative moves in a rather different course. The people’s desire to hear directly from the mouth of the King modulates into a desire to “see our King.” Seeing is presented as an intensification of immediate experience. We remember, however, that in Rashi’s midrashic source, the Mechilta, seeing represented a separate desire, separately granted. Immediately following this come God’s insistent instructions about limits, about cordoning off the mountain. These are given both before the descent of God upon the fiery mountain and after: God summons Moses to the top of the mountain, only to send him down again with reiterated warnings to the people: “Let not the priests or the people break through to come up to God …” (19:24). Rashi comments: “Let them not break through”: let them not break through their lines, out of their desire to see God, and approach the mountain slope. The desire to see God (or, more literally, “their desire to God, to see …”) is a transgressive force that may lead them to break their lines. “Breaking through,” as Rashi goes on to explain, indicates the disintegration of a structure: “those who separate themselves from a structure of people break that structure.” The “structure of people” (matzav anashim) most obviously refers to the lines of Israelites drawn up at the foot of the mountain. But it also carries existential connotations: the warning is against separating from the human condition. Optical desire—and as yet we have not discussed the nature of that desire—threatens ruin to self and to approved modes of constructing the human situation. Therefore, repeated with slight variations, the injunction to set bounds for the people: the importance of limits, distances, curbs on an infinite desire. One way of understanding the danger of Sinai emerges from Seforno’s commentary: “Let them not break through …”: when I speak with them. Lest they think that—since they have achieved the level of a face-to-face prophecy just like you—they can ascend to your position. Here, Seforno identifies the danger of a heightened consciousness. The intoxication that may sweep the people away is related to the prophetic experience itself. Face to face with God, they may lose all contact with where they actually stand.

  7. (כ) וַיְהִ֗י כְּשָׁמְעֲכֶ֤ם אֶת־הַקּוֹל֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַחֹ֔שֶׁךְ וְהָהָ֖ר בֹּעֵ֣ר בָּאֵ֑שׁ וַתִּקְרְב֣וּן אֵלַ֔י כָּל־רָאשֵׁ֥י שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֖ם וְזִקְנֵיכֶֽם׃ (כא) וַתֹּאמְר֗וּ הֵ֣ן הֶרְאָ֜נוּ יי אֱלֹהֵ֙ינוּ֙ אֶת־כְּבֹד֣וֹ וְאֶת־גָּדְל֔וֹ וְאֶת־קֹל֥וֹ שָׁמַ֖עְנוּ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הָאֵ֑שׁ הַיּ֤וֹם הַזֶּה֙ רָאִ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־יְדַבֵּ֧ר אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם וָחָֽי׃ (כב) וְעַתָּה֙ לָ֣מָּה נָמ֔וּת כִּ֣י תֹֽאכְלֵ֔נוּ הָאֵ֥שׁ הַגְּדֹלָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את אִם־יֹסְפִ֣ים ׀ אֲנַ֗חְנוּ לִ֠שְׁמֹעַ אֶת־ק֨וֹל יי אֱלֹהֵ֛ינוּ ע֖וֹד וָמָֽתְנוּ׃ (כג) כִּ֣י מִ֣י כָל־בָּשָׂ֡ר אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׁמַ֣ע קוֹל֩ אֱלֹהִ֨ים חַיִּ֜ים מְדַבֵּ֧ר מִתּוֹךְ־הָאֵ֛שׁ כָּמֹ֖נוּ וַיֶּֽחִי׃ (כד) קְרַ֤ב אַתָּה֙ וּֽשֲׁמָ֔ע אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹאמַ֖ר יי אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ וְאַ֣תְּ ׀ תְּדַבֵּ֣ר אֵלֵ֗ינוּ אֵת֩ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְדַבֵּ֜ר יי אֱלֹהֵ֛ינוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ וְשָׁמַ֥עְנוּ וְעָשִֽׂינוּ׃ (כה) וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע יי אֶת־ק֣וֹל דִּבְרֵיכֶ֔ם בְּדַבֶּרְכֶ֖ם אֵלָ֑י וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יי אֵלַ֗י שָׁ֠מַעְתִּי אֶת־ק֨וֹל דִּבְרֵ֜י הָעָ֤ם הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבְּר֣וּ אֵלֶ֔יךָ הֵיטִ֖יבוּ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽרוּ׃

    (20) And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain did burn with fire, that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; (21) and ye said: ‘Behold, the LORD our God hath shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice out of the midst of the fire; we have seen this day that God doth speak with man, and he liveth. (22) Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die. (23) For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? (24) Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God may say; and thou shalt speak unto us all that the LORD our God may speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it.’ (25) And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spoke unto me; and the LORD said unto me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee; they have well said all that they have spoken.

  8. Although fire and cloud and thick darkness—the visual character of Sinai—are described, it is clearly “the voice out of the darkness” that prompts the people to surrender the immediacy of their relation to God. At first, Moses defines this as the central experience: “When you heard the voice out of the darkness …” The fiery mountain is secondary, background to the voice. In their speech, the people do refer to both seeing and hearing, bringing both together in “we have seen this day that though God speaks with man, he may live” (v. 21). But we remember Ramban’s translation of “we have seen”: “we have realized, it has become immediate to us.” The logic of their speech, however, remains enigmatic: if they have seen that it is possible to survive the strain of revelation, why do they fear death—death, specifically, from hearing the voice of God? For it is the revelation of the voice that can be fatal, and that is made equivalent to being consumed by the great fire. The mysterious question in v. 23: “Who that is all-flesh has heard the voice of the living God speak out of the fire, as we have, and lived?” elaborates on their extraordinary survival, after such revelation. But, again, we may ask: even if this survival is exceptional, nevertheless they are alive! Why, therefore, do they entreat Moses to hear in their place? Why do they limit their role to hearing Moses’ words, rather than God’s? To be consumed by fire is the desire and the dread of those who hear voices. When Moses refused God’s mission at the Burning Bush—according to the midrash, a seven-day resistance—the emblem of a bush that burns and is not consumed is deployed to reassure him.15 To hear God and to speak with His voice is to burn with an inner fire. To have the voice of God speak from one’s own throat is to know oneself invaded, unfamiliar, consumed. The possibility of burning, like the bush, without being entirely consumed is what compels Moses’ attention in the first place. He resists, in the real and instinctive terror of the human being who both desires the fire and fears extinction. An equivalent terror, I suggest, is experienced by the whole people, on hearing God’s voice. If they, too, have become prophets, this must mean that the fire has invaded their inner being. The trauma is one of violation; they no longer know themselves. The enigma of the Sinai moment, however, can be registered in the fact that this threatening voice is “the voice of the living God”; and that they are alive to speak of it. It is almost as if it is life, and not death, that they fear; as though the oscillation of their response expresses a visceral ambivalence about the life-gift that is offered at Sinai. The historic effect of their terror is that Moses hears and speaks in their place. Moreover, the effect on future generations is that specific people, prophets, will be chosen to fulfill this role that the people now recognize is beyond their capacity.

  9. (ב) בעבור ישמע העם בדברי עמך
    והנכון בעיני שאמר, אני בא אליך בעב הענן, שתגש אתה אל הערפל בעבור ישמע העם דברי, ויהיו הם עצמם נביאים בדברי, לא שיאמינו מפי אחרים, כמו שנאמר באמור יי אלי הקהל לי את העם ואשמיעם את דברי למען ילמדון ליראה אותי כל הימים (דברים ד י), וגם בך יאמינו לנצח בכל הדורות, ואם יקום בקרבם נביא או חולם חלום כנגד דברך יכחישוהו מיד, שכבר ראו בעיניהם ושמעו באזניהם שהגעת למעלה העליונה בנבואה, יתברר להם ממך מה שכתוב (במדבר יב ו~ח) אם יהיה נביאכם יי במראה אליו אתודע בחלום אדבר בו, לא כן עבדי משה בכל ביתי נאמן הוא פה אל פה אדבר בו, ולכך אמר בעבור ישמע העם בדברי עמך, כי ישמע דברי מתוך האש וידעו שאני יי מדבר עמך ויאמינו בדברי וגם בך לעולם וכן מה שאמרו היום הזה ראינו כי ידבר אלהים את האדם וחי (דברים ה כא), לומר הנה נתקיים הדבר אצלינו בראיית עינינו כאשר היה חפץ אלהים, ומעתה קרב אתה שידענו בך שהגעת למעלה הגדולה ושמע כל אשר אמר יי אלהינו ושמענו מפיך ועשינו, שכבר נאמנה נבואתך כי היא העליונה על כל הנביאים: 

    The people shall hear when I speak with you—and they themselves will become prophets, when I speak—they will not simply believe on the authority of others, as it is said, “God said to me: Gather the people for Me, so that I may have them hear My words, in order that they may learn to fear Me all the days.” (Deut 4:10) Moreover, they will believe in you eternally, through all generations: And if there should arise in their midst a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, who opposes your words, they will repudiate him immediately. For they have already seen with their eyes and heard with their ears that you have reached the highest level of prophecy. For that reason, God said, “The people will hear when I speak with you:” they will hear My words from out of the fire, and they will know that I, God, am speaking with you, and they will believe My words and also believe in you for ever. That is what the people say: “This day we have seen that God will speak with a human being and he may live” (Deut 5:20)—meaning, “The possibility of hearing God speak has been realized by us, in the seeing of our eyes, as God desired.” So, from now on, “you (Moses) go close to God”—for we know that you have attained greatness—“and listen to all that God, our God says, and we will hear from your mouth, and obey”—for your prophecy has now been validated, that it is the highest of all.

  10. For Ramban, therefore, the people fulfill the real will of God in desiring immediate experience, in being granted it, and—perhaps most importantly—in recognizing their limitations and passing the baton of prophecy to Moses. This is the meaning of the enigmatic sequence of their speech in Deuteronomy: “For what mortal ever heard the voice of the living God speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived? You go close and hear all that God our God says, and then you tell us everything that God our God tells you …” (Deut 5:23–24). One might ask: If they have heard God’s voice and survived, why do they surrender that experience? If they have emerged unscathed, that would seem to be an argument for maintaining their prophetic stature. For Ramban, however, they are now sufficiently enlightened to know their own limits. Now, they are capable of a vital appreciation of Moses’ virtuosity, and they retreat from their recent desire. And God acclaims their decision: “They did well to speak in this way …” (5:25). The gift of prophecy was rightly given to them, so that it might be rightly surrendered.

  11.  ... אמר רבי לוי: שני דברים שאלו ישראל מלפני הקב"ה: שיראו כבודו וישמעו קולו והיו רואין את כבודו ושומעין את קולו, שנאמר (דברים ה): ותאמרו הן הראנו יי אלהינו את כבודו ואת גדלו. וכתיב (שם) ואת קולו שמענו מתוך האש. ולא היה בהם כח לעמוד, שכיון שבאו לסיני ונגלה להם, פרחה נשמתם על שדבר עמהם, שנאמר (שיר ה): נפשי יצאה בדברו, אבל התורה בקשה עליהם רחמים מלפני הקב"ה. יש מלך משיא בתו והורג אנשי ביתו, כל העולם כולו שמחים ובניך מתים?! מיד חזרה נשמתן, שנאמר (תהלים יט): תורת יי תמימה משיבת נפש:

    R. Levi said: Two things Israel requested from God—to see His glory and to hear His voice. And they did see His glory and hear His voice, as it is said, “See, God our God has shown us His glory and His greatness,” and it is written, “His voice we have heard from out of the fire.” (Deut 5:21) But they did not have strength to stand, for when they came to Sinai and He was revealed to them, they fainted (lit. their souls flew away), when He spoke with them, as it is said, “I was faint (lit. My soul left me) when he spoke” (Song of Songs 5:6). But the Torah asked God for mercy: “Does a king marry off his daughter and kill his household? The whole world is rejoicing, and Your children die!” Immediately, they revived, as it is written, “God’s Torah is perfect, restoring life” (Ps 19:8).16

  12. (א) אנכי יי אלהיך, הה"ד (דברים ד): השמע עם קול אלהים. המינין שאלו את ר' שמלאי, א"ל: אלוהות הרבה יש בעולם? אמר להם: למה? אמרו לו: שהרי כתיב, השמע עם קול אלהים! אמר להם: שמא כתוב מדברים, אלא מדבר. אמרו לו תלמידיו: רבי לאלו דחית בקנה רצוץ, לנו מה אתה משיב? חזר ר' לוי ופירשה, אמר להם: השמע עם קול אלהים, כיצד? אילו היה כתוב קול יי בכחו, לא היה העולם יכול לעמוד, אלא קול יי בכח, בכח של כל אחד ואחד. הבחורים לפי כחן, והזקנים לפי כחן, והקטנים לפי כחן. אמר הקב"ה לישראל: לא בשביל ששמעתם קולות הרבה, תהיו סבורין שמא אלוהות הרבה יש בשמים, אלא תהיו יודעים שאני הוא יי אלהיך, שנאמר (שם ה): אנכי יי אלהיך:

    “I am God your God …” (20:2). It is written, “Has a people ever heard the voice of God …?” (Deut 4:33). Heretics asked R. Simlai: “Are there many gods in the world?” He asked, “Why?” They answered: “Because it is written, ‘Has a people heard the voice of elohim,’ in the plural!” He told them, “But it does not say, ‘God speaking—medabrim’—in the plural, but medaber—in the singular!” His students then said to him: “You have fobbed them off with a reed (i.e., easily): what do you answer us?” So R. Levi explained again: “Has a people ever heard the voice of God …?” If it had said, “The voice of God is in His strength,” the world would not have been able to stand. But the text says: “The voice of God is in strength” (Ps 29:4)—that is, according to the strength of each individual—young men, according to their strength, and the old, according to their strength, and children, according to their strength. God said to Israel: “Just because you heard many voices, do not think that there are many gods in heaven, but be aware that I am God your God, as it is said, ‘I am God your God …’ ”




    The extreme polarities of their response to Revelation are seen by Haamek Davar as expressing a moment of immense growth. The people are stretched to the limits of their strength. The effect is to release a new sense of their own capacities, a new awareness of their ability to contain previously unknown extremes. On this reading, when Moses reassures the people in this vein: “Do not be afraid, for in order to test (le-nasoth) you, God has come to you …” (20:17) and when the word le-nasoth is translated by Rashi, “to exalt you,” Ha-amek Davar develops the idea: it is human spiritual greatness that is God’s purpose in revealing Himself—the ability to endure suffering, in the immense amplification of inner resources that is the heritage of the ordeal of Sinai. The implications of this reading are quite radical: the purpose of Revelation is to develop human qualities. What is enacted at Sinai is the revelation of the human being in larger range and strength. A new consciousness is born in this revelation; the Israelites endure an initiation that ensures them against the extremities of history. God comes at Sinai, so that the human may come fully into its own.




    In Deuteronomy 18:15–17, the connection with the future is made explicitly: God your God will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people, like myself; to him you shall listen. This is just what you asked of God your God at Chorev, on the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear the voice of God my God any longer or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” And God said to me, “They have done well in speaking like this.” Here, as in the earlier Deuteronomy passage, God approves of their delegating prophecy. They are reclaiming an appropriate, modest human posture. Ramban, we remember, reads their short-lived prophetic experience as of merely instrumental value: it generates in them a new belief in the excellence of Moses’ prophecy. Their fear is a right fear; God Himself validates it. And yet, there is more ambiguity in the Torah text itself, and certainly in the midrashic narratives, than this account allows for. If it is the voice of the living God that terrifies them, even as they know themselves alive, then the healthy-mindedness, to use William James’s expression, of Ramban’s position, may seem not entirely satisfactory. The recoil of the people, for instance, is described in many midrashic sources as a kind of death:





    The people have no strength to stand the experience of God’s glory, as expressed in “hearing His voice from out of the fire.” They swoon; effectively, they die. And are restored to life, strangely by the Torah, God’s daughter, who is to be given in marriage to the Israelites. The Torah gives life; while the Revelation of God, His voice, perilously ravishes the soul. Two orders of experience are delineated in this and many other midrashic sources. The Torah, the Commandments, the ethical and ritual structures given at Sinai, are distinguished from the overwhelming, potentially fatal voice of God, which is beyond human strength to bear. The nations of the world, not directly involved in this encounter, rejoice: the world’s survival depends on the success of this marriage, on the Israelite capacity to accept the Torah. In a similar vein, one of the midrashic commentators17 suggests, we can read the expression of the people’s fear as the reaction of those who have died and been resurrected: “Who that is all-flesh has ever heard the voice of the living God speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived—i.e., and returned to life?” (Deut 5:23). This reading connects this verse with the end of the previous one: “… we shall die” is read “we have died … and returned to life.” In some versions, a dew falls from heaven to revive them.18 In this context, having known death and resurrection, their desire to delegate to Moses becomes more comprehensible. In these midrashic narratives, the people experience the extremes of death and life at each of the Ten Commandments. To hear the voice of God is to suffer the unbearable; to receive the Torah is to return to life, to one’s recognizable self.19 To stand at Sinai is to achieve some equilibrium, some possible standing-ground, where God’s voice may bearably inform the Torah.





    We return to our questions: what is the terror of God’s voice? What is the nature of the trauma that it inflicts? And what is its relation to death and life? A cluster of midrashic sources describes the experience of God’s voice as being registered at the very margin of the bearable:




    20 The plural dimension of God’s voice indicates an exquisite compatibility with the “strength of each individual,” with the specific world in time and space that is a human being. If God had spoken with a single voice, it would have shattered the world: “the world would not have been able to bear it.” In other midrashim, indeed, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions threaten to return the world to chaos. But here, the wonder of Revelation consists of six hundred thousand different qualities of voice that are registered by each listener. God allows his unequivocal voice, the magisterial soul of anochi, the “I am God …” which opens the Ten Commandments, to be refracted into myriads of subjective voices. One paradoxical implication is that Revelation is both objective and yet fully subjective, attuned to the consciousness of each individual. But another implication—significantly different—is that the voice of God places a strain on the strength of each individual: what is registered lies at the very limit of the bearable. These two facets of Revelation become clearer in the following midrash: “All the people saw the voices …” (20:15): not “… the voice,” but “… the voices.” R. Yohanan said: when the voice came forth it did so only according to the strength of each individual Israelite, according to what he could bear. So, it says, “The voice of God is in strength” (Ps 29:4)—according to the strength of each individual. Said R. Yossi bar Hanina: If this surprises you, learn from the manna which fell for the Israelites in the wilderness: its taste was adapted to each individual taste, so that they should be able to bear it; if this was so with the manna, how much more so with the voice of God—that it should not cause injury.21 Here, the phrase, “as much as he could bear,” is added to “according to the strength of each individual.” And the analogy with the manna, which varies its taste according to the individual palate—a congenially hedonistic notion—is similarly qualified by the unexpected phrase, “so that they should be able to bear it.” If even the manna, dropped from heaven, has an unbearable dimension that requires tempering, individuation—then, certainly, the voice of God requires modulation if it is not to injure the listener. What is endangered by the heavenly manna is an earthly integrity, the familiar world of taste, sensitivity, sensibility. The word ta’am—“taste”—also connotes “meaning”: what is varied according to each individual, then, is the subjective experience, the construction of significance attaching to the manna—and to the voice of God. This is the dimension of kavod that Jethro abandoned in his journey into the wilderness. The encounter with the kavod of God is experienced as an invasion, an annihilation. For that reason, it is tempered to the limit of the bearable, so that a world of meaning can survive the transformations of encountering God. The traumatic effect of God’s voice on creation is the subject of Psalm 29, where God’s voice kindles flames of fire, convulses the wilderness, strips forests bare (v. 7). In view of this prodigious cosmic effect, Jethro’s expectation that his kavod will be reconstituted, that he will be compensated in the same coin for his losses, emerges as rather naïve. Similarly naïve, perhaps, is his confidence that administrative restructurings of society will make it possible for Moses to stand, to withstand the burden that threatens to crush him. What Jethro experiences with paradigmatic clarity, however, is the real human anxiety about the erosion of kavod, of a stable, recognizable identity. The experience of the unbearable, of that which tests and stretches the limits of consciousness, is the essential ordeal of Sinai. A famous midrash makes the point about the ponderous weight of Sinai: “They took their places at the foot of the mountain” (19:17): … This teaches that God suspended the mountain over them, like a barrel, and told them, “If you accept the Torah, all is well; if not, here will be your




    Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb (2011-02-01). The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodos (Kindle Locations 6081-6150). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


    The extreme polarities of their response to Revelation are seen by Haamek Davar as expressing a moment of immense growth. The people are stretched to the limits of their strength. The effect is to release a new sense of their own capacities, a new awareness of their ability to contain previously unknown extremes. On this reading, when Moses reassures the people in this vein: “Do not be afraid, for in order to test (le-nasoth) you, God has come to you …” (20:17) and when the word le-nasoth is translated by Rashi, “to exalt you,” Ha-amek Davar develops the idea: it is human spiritual greatness that is God’s purpose in revealing Himself—the ability to endure suffering, in the immense amplification of inner resources that is the heritage of the ordeal of Sinai. The implications of this reading are quite radical: the purpose of Revelation is to develop human qualities. What is enacted at Sinai is the revelation of the human being in larger range and strength. A new consciousness is born in this revelation; the Israelites endure an initiation that ensures them against the extremities of history. God comes at Sinai, so that the human may come fully into its own.

    Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb (2011-02-01). The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodos (Kindle Locations 6019-6028). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.




  14. (א) לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ עַֽל־יְדוּת֗וּן מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד׃ (ב) אַ֣ךְ אֶל־אֱ֭לֹהִים דּֽוּמִיָּ֣ה נַפְשִׁ֑י מִ֝מֶּ֗נּוּ יְשׁוּעָתִֽי׃ (ג) אַךְ־ה֣וּא צ֭וּרִי וִֽישׁוּעָתִ֑י מִ֝שְׂגַּבִּ֗י לֹא־אֶמּ֥וֹט רַבָּֽה׃ (ד) עַד־אָ֤נָה ׀ תְּהֽוֹתְת֣וּ עַל אִישׁ֮ תְּרָצְּח֪וּ כֻ֫לְּכֶ֥ם כְּקִ֥יר נָט֑וּי גָּ֝דֵ֗ר הַדְּחוּיָֽה׃ (ה) אַ֤ךְ מִשְּׂאֵת֨וֹ ׀ יָעֲצ֣וּ לְהַדִּיחַ֮ יִרְצ֪וּ כָ֫זָ֥ב בְּפִ֥יו יְבָרֵ֑כוּ וּ֝בְקִרְבָּ֗ם יְקַלְלוּ־סֶֽלָה׃ (ו) אַ֣ךְ לֵ֭אלֹהִים דּ֣וֹמִּי נַפְשִׁ֑י כִּי־מִ֝מֶּ֗נּוּ תִּקְוָתִֽי׃ (ז) אַךְ־ה֣וּא צ֭וּרִי וִֽישׁוּעָתִ֑י מִ֝שְׂגַּבִּ֗י לֹ֣א אֶמּֽוֹט׃ (ח) עַל־אֱ֭לֹהִים יִשְׁעִ֣י וּכְבוֹדִ֑י צוּר־עֻזִּ֥י מַ֝חְסִ֗י בֵּֽאלֹהִֽים׃ (ט) בִּטְח֘וּ ב֤וֹ בְכָל־עֵ֨ת ׀ עָ֗ם שִׁפְכֽוּ־לְפָנָ֥יו לְבַבְכֶ֑ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים מַחֲסֶה־לָּ֣נוּ סֶֽלָה׃ (י) אַ֤ךְ ׀ הֶ֥בֶל בְּנֵֽי־אָדָם֮ כָּזָ֪ב בְּנֵ֫י אִ֥ישׁ בְּמֹאזְנַ֥יִם לַעֲל֑וֹת הֵ֝֗מָּה מֵהֶ֥בֶל יָֽחַד׃ (יא) אַל־תִּבְטְח֣וּ בְעֹשֶׁק֮ וּבְגָזֵ֪ל אַל־תֶּ֫הְבָּ֥לוּ חַ֤יִל ׀ כִּֽי־יָנ֑וּב אַל־תָּשִׁ֥יתוּ לֵֽב׃ (יב) אַחַ֤ת ׀ דִּבֶּ֬ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים שְׁתַּֽיִם־ז֥וּ שָׁמָ֑עְתִּי כִּ֥י עֹ֝֗ז לֵאלֹהִֽים׃ (יג) וּלְךָֽ־אֲדֹנָ֥י חָ֑סֶד כִּֽי־אַתָּ֨ה תְשַׁלֵּ֖ם לְאִ֣ישׁ כְּֽמַעֲשֵֽׂהוּ׃

    (1) For the Leader; for Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. (2) Only for God doth my soul wait in stillness; From Him cometh my salvation. (3) He only is my rock and my salvation, My high tower, I shall not be greatly moved. (4) How long will ye set upon a man, That ye may slay him, all of you, As a leaning wall, a tottering fence? (5) They only devise to thrust him down from his height, delighting in lies; They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah (6) Only for God wait thou in stillness, my soul; For from Him cometh my hope. (7) He only is my rock and my salvation, My high tower, I shall not be moved. (8) Upon God resteth my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. (9) Trust in Him at all times, ye people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (10) Men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; If they be laid in the balances, they are together lighter than vanity. (11) Trust not in oppression, And put not vain hope in robbery; If riches increase, set not your heart thereon. (12) God hath spoken once, Twice have I heard this: That strength belongeth unto God; (13) Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; For Thou renderest to every man according to his work.
  15. מכות כג: 62-69

    דרש רבי שמלאי שש מאות ושלש עשרה מצות נאמרו לו למשה שלש מאות וששים וחמש לאוין כמנין ימות החמה ומאתים וארבעים ושמונה עשה כנגד איבריו של אדם אמר רב המנונא מאי קרא (דברים לג, ד) 'תורה צוה לנו משה מורשיי תורה בגימטריא שית מאה וחד סרי הוי אנכי ולא יהיה לך מפי הגבורה שמענום.

    R. Simlai when preaching said: Six hundred and thirteen precepts were communicated to Moses, three hundred and sixty-five negative precepts, corresponding to the number of solar days [in the year], and two hundred and forty-eight positive precepts, corresponding to the number of the members of man's body. Said R. Hamnuna: What is the [authentic] text for this? It is, Moses commanded us torah, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob, ‘torah’ being in letter-value, equal to six hundred and eleven,1 ‘I am’ and ‘Thou shalt have no [other Gods]’ [not being reckoned, because] we heard from the mouth of the Might [Divine].

  16. רש"י על מכות כד. 1-2

    שית מאה וחד סרי - והיינו דכתיב תורה צוה לנו משה ושתים מפי הגבורה הרי שית מאה ותליסרי:

    מפי הגבורה שמענום - דכתיב אחת דבר אלהים ושתים זו שמענו:(במכילתא)


    Six Hundred and Eleven-

    as it is written, 'Torah was commanded by Moshe' {each letter of the word 'torah=611} and two heard from mouth of Might/Gevurah=613


    From the mouth of Might/ Gevurah- as it is written, 'One thing G-d spoke; we heard two' : (Mechilta)


  17. מכילתא פרשת בחדש פרשה ז

    זכור (דברים ה') ושמור

    -שניהם נאמרו בדיבור אחד.

    (שמות ל"א) מחלליה מות יומת במדבר כ"ח וביום השבת שני כבשים

    - שניהם בדבור אחר נאמרו.

    ויקרא י"ח ערות אשת אחיך דברים כ"ה יבמה יבא עליה

    -שניהם נאמרו בדיבור אחד.

    שם כ"ב לא תשבש שעטנז שם וגדילים תעשה לך

    -שניהם נאמרו בדיבור אחד.

    מה שאי אפשר לאדם לומר כן

    שנאמר, 'אחת דבר אלהים שתים זו שמענו'

    Mekhilta Parshat Ba'Chodesh, #7




    סדור תפלה - נוסח אשכנז - סדר קבלת שבת

    שָׁמוֹר וְזָכוֹר בְּדִבּוּר אֶחָד. הִשְׁמִיעָנוּ אֵל הַמְיֻחָד. יי אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד. לְשֵׁם וּלְתִפְאֶרֶת וְלִתְהִלָּה. לכה דודי:

    Siddur/Prayer Book- Ashkenazi Rite- Kabbalat Shabbat

    Shamor and Zachor, singularly spoken, made heard by the singular Deity, One Power/One Name, Praise, Beauty,

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