A commanding voice

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
And, Charlton Heston came down from Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. Oops! Sorry, make that Moses. And, he was carrying the tablets with the Ten Commandments. The big 10, read in shuls around the world this coming Sunday morning for Shavuot, appear in the Book of Exodus, and are repeated in Deuteronomy as part of Moses’ review of the past 40 years.
by Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Sydenham Shul | Jun 06, 2019

Moses describes how G-d spoke those words in a mighty voice that did not end. One of the explanations offered by Rashi is that Moses is contrasting G-d’s voice with human voices. The finite voice of a human being, even a Pavarotti, will fade and falter. It cannot go on forever. But the voice of the Almighty did not end, did not weaken. It remained strong throughout.

Is this all the great prophet had to teach us about the voice of G-d? That it was a powerful baritone? That it resonated? Is the greatness of the infinite one that he didn’t suffer from shortness of breath, that He didn’t need a few puffs of Ventolin? Is this meaningful motivation for Jews to accept the Torah?

Moses was the greatest of all prophets. He foresaw what no other prophet could see. Perhaps he saw his people becoming caught up in the civilisation of ancient Greece, in the beauty, culture, philosophy, and art of the day. They might question whether Torah was still relevant.

Perhaps he foresaw Jews empowered by the industrial revolution, in which they might have thought the Torah to be somewhat backward. Or, maybe the Russian Revolution, in which faith and religion were deemed primitive.

Maybe Moses saw our own generation, with space shuttles and satellites, teleprompters, and technology. And he saw young people questioning whether the Good Book still speaks to them.

And so, Moses tells us that the voice that thundered from Sinai was no ordinary voice. The voice that proclaimed the Ten Commandments was a voice that was not only powerful at the time, but it did not end! It still rings out, still resonates, and still speaks to each of us in every generation, and in every part of the world.

Revolutions may come and go, but revelation is eternal. The voice of Sinai continues to proclaim eternal truths that never become passé or irrelevant. Honour your parents, revere them, look after them in their old age. Never abandon them to some decrepit old age home. Live moral lives; do not tamper with the sacred fibre of family life; be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Dedicate one day every week and keep that day holy. Stop the madness. Turn your back on the rat race, and rediscover your humanity and your children. Don’t be guilty of greed, envy, dishonesty, or corruption.

Are these ideas and values dated? Are these commandments tired, stale, or irrelevant? On the contrary. They speak to us now as perhaps never before. The G-dly voice has lost none of its strength, none of its majesty. The mortal voice of man declines and fades into oblivion. Politicians and spin-doctors come and go, but the heavenly sound reverberates down the ages.

Moses knew what he was saying, and who he was talking to. Torah is truth, and truth is forever. The voice of G-d shall never be stilled.

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