Reports from Sinai
(טו) וְכָל־הָעָם֩ רֹאִ֨ים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹ֜ת וְאֶת־הַלַּפִּידִ֗ם וְאֵת֙ ק֣וֹל הַשֹּׁפָ֔ר וְאֶת־הָהָ֖ר עָשֵׁ֑ן וַיַּ֤רְא הָעָם֙ וַיָּנֻ֔עוּ וַיַּֽעַמְד֖וּ מֵֽרָחֹֽק׃
(15) All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance.
(י) יִמְצָאֵ֙הוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִדְבָּ֔ר וּבְתֹ֖הוּ יְלֵ֣ל יְשִׁמֹ֑ן יְסֹֽבְבֶ֙נְהוּ֙ יְב֣וֹנְנֵ֔הוּ יִצְּרֶ֖נְהוּ כְּאִישׁ֥וֹן עֵינֽוֹ׃
(10) He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watched over him, Guarded him as the pupil of His eye.

"וכל העם רואין". קולי קולות ולפידי לפידים. וכמה קולות היו, וכמה לפידים היו? – אלא שהיו משמיעים את האדם לפי כחו, שנאמר (שם) "קול ה' בכח". דבר אחר: להודיע שבחן של ישראל, שכשעמדו כלן לפני הר סיני לקבל את התורה, היו שומעין את הדיבור ומפרשים אותו, שנאמר (דברים לב י) "יסובבנהו יבוננהו", שכיון שהיו שומעין הדיבור – מפרשים אותו. ר' אליעזר אומר: להודיע שבחן של ישראל, שכשעמדו כלן לפני הר סיני לקבל את התורה, לא היה בהם סומין, שנאמר "וכל העם רואין". ומגיד שלא היה בהם אלמים (שמות יט ח) "ויענו כל העם יחדו". ומלמד שלא היה בהן חרשין שנאמר (שמות כד ז) "כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה ונשמע". ומנין שלא היה בהם חגרים? – שנאמר (שמות יט יז) "ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר". ומלמד שלא היה בהם טפשים, שנאמר (דברים ד לה) "אתה הראת לדעת".

"And all the people saw": the sounds of sounds and the flames of flames. How many sounds were there and how many flames were there? The intent is that each heard according to his power (to absorb what he experienced), viz. (Psalms 29:4) "the vice of the L rd in power, the voice of the L rd in majesty." Variantly: "And all the people saw": to apprise us of the exalted state of Israel. When they all stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, as soon as they heard the pronouncement, they assimilated it. As it is written (Devarim 32:10) "He encircled him; he invested him (with understanding). As soon as they heard the pronouncement, they assimilated it. R. Eliezer says: to apprise us of the exalted state of Israel. When they all stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, there were no blind ones among them, viz. "And all the people saw." And whence is it derived that there were no mutes among them? From (Exodus 19:8) "And all the people answered together." And whence is it derived that there were no deaf ones among them? From (Ibid. 24:7) "All that the L rd has spoken, we shall do and we shall hear." And whence is it derived that there were no lame ones among them? From (Ibid. 17) "And they stood at the foot of the mountain." And whence is it derived that there were no fools among them? From (Devarim 4:35) "You have been shown to know, etc."

Sifrei Ha'azinu, Piska 313

ד"א ימצאהו בארץ מדבר - אלו ישראל, כענין שנאמר (הושע ט) כענבים במדבר מצאתי ישראל:

ובתוהו ילל ישימון - במקום הצרות במקום הגייסות במקום ליסטות:

יסובבנהו - לפני הר סיני, כענין שנא' (שמות יט) והגבלת את העם סביב לאמר:

יבוננהו - בעשרת הדברות; מלמד שהיה הדיבר יוצא מפי הקב"ה, והיו ישראל מסתכלים בו, ויודעים כמה מדרשים יש בו, וכמה הלכות יש בו, וכמה קלים וחמורים יש בו, וכמה גזירות שוות יש בו:

יצרנו כאישון עינו - הולכים י"ב מיל וחוזרים י"ב מיל על כל דבור ודבור, ולא היו נרתעים לא מקול הקולות ולא מקול הלפידים.

Variantly: "He found them in a desert land": This refers to Israel, as it is written (Hoshea 9:10) "As grapes in the desert, I found Israel."

"and in a wasteland, howling and desolate": in a place of afflictions, invaders, and marauders.

"He surrounded them": before Mount Sinai, viz. (Shemoth 19:12) "And you shall set bounds to the people roundabout, saying, etc."

"He invested them with understanding": with the ten commandments. We are hereby taught that the Word left the mouth of the Holy One Blessed be He, and Israel perceived it and knew how many midrashim it contained, how many halachoth it contained, how many leniencies and stringencies it contained and how many gezeiroth shavoth (identities) it contained.

They went forward twelve mil and recoiled ten mil at each commandment, and they were not deterred, neither by the sound of the (shofar) blasts, nor by the "sound" of the flashes.

(ב) דָּבָר אַחֵר, יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ, אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן מַלְאָךְ הָיָה מוֹצִיא הַדִּבּוּר מִלִּפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל כָּל דִּבּוּר וְדִבּוּר, וּמַחֲזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ מְקַבֵּל אַתָּה עָלֶיךָ אֶת הַדִּבּוּר הַזֶּה, כָּךְ וְכָךְ דִּינִין יֵשׁ בּוֹ, כָּךְ וְכָךְ עֳנָשִׁין יֵשׁ בּוֹ, כָּךְ וְכָךְ גְּזֵרוֹת יֵשׁ בּוֹ, וְכָךְ מִצְווֹת, וְכָךְ קַלִּים וַחֲמוּרִים יֵשׁ בּוֹ, כָּךְ וְכָךְ מַתַּן שָׂכָר יֵשׁ בּוֹ, וְהָיָה אוֹמֵר לוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל, הֵן, וְחוֹזֵר וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ מְקַבֵּל אַתְּ אֱלָהוּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לוֹ, הֵן וָהֵן, מִיָּד הָיָה נוֹשְׁקוֹ עַל פִּיו, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (דברים ד, לה): אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, עַל יְדֵי שָׁלִיחַ. וְרַבָּנִין אָמְרִין, הַדִּבּוּר עַצְמוֹ הָיָה מְחַזֵּר עַל כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ מְקַבְּלֵנִי אַתְּ עָלֶיךָ, כָּךְ וְכָךְ מִצְווֹת יֵשׁ בִּי, וְכָךְ דִּינִין יֵשׁ בִּי, כָּךְ וְכָךְ עֳנָשִׁין יֵשׁ בִּי, כָּךְ וְכָךְ גְּזֵרוֹת יֵשׁ בִּי, כָּךְ וְכָךְ מִצְווֹת יֵשׁ בִּי, כָּךְ וְכָךְ קַלִּין וַחֲמוּרִין יֵשׁ בִּי, כָּךְ וְכָךְ מַתַּן שָׂכָר יֵשׁ בִּי, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר, הֵן וָהֵן, מִיָּד הַדִּבּוּר נוֹשְׁקוֹ עַל פִּיו לְאַדֶּקוּלְאִין בֶּן הַדִּימָה וְלִמְּדוֹ הַתּוֹרָה, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב דִכְתִיב (דברים ד, ט): פֶּן תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ, דְּבָרִים שֶׁרָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ, אֵיךְ הָיָה הַדִּבּוּר מְדַבֵּר עִמָּךְ.

Another interpretation: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth..." (Song of Songs, 1:2) Said Rabbi Yochanan: An angel would take each utterance from before the Holy Blessed One, and at each and every utterance, and take it around to each and every Israelite, and say, "Do you accept this utterance upon you? Such and such rules are in it, such and such penalties are in it, and such and such decrees are in it, such commandments, such rulings from minor to major, and such granting of reward is in it." and the Israelite would answer, "Yes!" Then the angel would further say, "Do you accept the divinity of the Holy Blessed One?" And the Israelite would answer, "Yes and yes!" Immediately, the angel would kiss the Israelite on the mouth. This is what is meant by the scripture: "You have been shown so as to comprehend" (Deuteronomy 4:35) - that is, by means of a messenger. And the Rabbis say: The utterance itself would go about to each and every Israelite, and say, "Do you accept me upon you? Such and such commandments are in me, and such and such rules are in me, and such penalties, and such decrees are in me, such and such rulings from minor to major are in me, such and such granting of reward is in me." And the Israelite would say, "Yes and yes!" Immediately the utterance would kiss the Israelite on the mouth and would teach the Torah to the Israelite. This is what is meant by the verse: "Lest you forget the things that your eyes saw" (Deuteronomy 4:9) - how the utterance spoke with you.

"We all stood together"

By: Merle Feld for Rachel Adler

My brother and I were at Sinai
He kept a journal
of what he saw
of what he heard
of what it all meant to him

I wish I had such a record
of what happened to me there

It seems like every time I want to write
I can’t
I’m always holding a baby
one of my own
or one for a friend
always holding a baby
so my hands are never free
to write things down

And then
As time passes
The particulars
The hard data
The who what when where why
Slip away from me
And all I’m left with is
The feeling

But feelings are just sounds
The vowel barking of a mute

My brother is so sure of what he heard
After all he’s got a record of it
Consonant after consonant after consonant

If we remembered it together
We could recreate holy time
Sparks flying