Watch: A short lesson by Reb Yoel Kahn on Parshas Vo’eschanan with English subtitles and a transcript.
Watch a short lesson by Reb Yoel Kahn on Parshas Vo’eschanan with English subtitles and a transcript.
Scroll down for the English transcript.
In Parshas Va’eschanan, Moshe repeats the events of Matan Torah to the Bnei Yisroel. When describing Hashem’s voice at Matan Torah, the possuk states that it was “a great voice which did not end.”
What does it mean that Hashem’s voice “did not end”? The Midrash explains this statement in three ways:
- The original voice split into seven sounds, which were then further divided into the seventy languages.
- Every future prophet derived his prophecy from that voice.
- There was no bas kol, or echo.
How do these interpretations explain the possuk?
We can understand how the first two interpretations explain the greatness and endlessness of Hashem’s voice. 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 voice continued even after Matan Torah was over, remaining potent throughout time as the source of all subsequent prophecy.
However, the third explanation doesn’t seem to highlight the greatness of the voice. In fact, it appears to be demonstrating the opposite: The louder the voice, the louder the echo; if no echo was produced at all, that indicates that the sound was rather weak!
A Level Never Seen Before
The Aseres Hadibros were on a level beyond anything the Jews had ever kept before.
They were certainly greater than the mitzvos the Avos had done previously without being instructed, because “one who is commanded and performs mitzvos is greater than one who is not commanded and performs mitzvos.” Moreover, they were even greater than the mitzvos Hashem had instructed the Avos to do. Indeed, the Rambam writes what he calls “an important principle”: we don’t perform bris milah, for example, because Avraham was told to do so by Hashem, but rather because we were commanded to do so later at Har Sinai.
Chassidus elaborates based on the Gemara which states that the word “Anochi” stands for “Ana Nafshi Ksavis Yehavis,” that Hashem wrote Himself into and put Himself into the Aseres Hadibros, and indeed into all of Torah. The mitzvos which were given previously came from lower levels of Elokus, while at Matan Torah, we received the Torah from Hashem Himself—to use the terminology of Chassidus, from Atzmus.
Our possuk teaches us that this idea—that Hashem Himself is in Torah—“didn’t end.” The Midrash elaborates, showing us how this is so in three areas:
The sound split into seventy languages:
At first glance, it seems sensible to state that only the Torah in the original Lashon Hakodesh contains Hashem’s essence. However, when the Torah “descends” by being studied in Yiddish (or another language), this element is lost.
However, the truth is that this descent is only external. In fact, the contrary is true: the point of Matan Torah is to create a dirah 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. This is also why a lot of Gemara is written in Aramaic, and even some parts of Tanach contain words from other languages.
Additionally, Matan Torah even impacts the mitzvos fulfilled by the nations of the world. The Rambam states that the gentiles must observe the sheva mitzvos bnei noach not because of their logical basis, but because Hashem told Moshe at Matan Torah that they had been given these mitzvos earlier.
This is different from our mitzvos, which were actually given at Matan Torah, as opposed to the sheva mitzvos bnei noach, which date back to Noach. However, by saying that they must do them because Hashem reaffirmed their tradition at Matan Torah, we see that Matan Torah impacted their mitzvos as well.
Thus, the revelation at Sinai permeates the languages of all seventy nations, and even their mitzvos (to a certain degree).
Hashem’s Voice in Gemara
All future prophecy emanated from the original sound at Matan Torah:
It is obvious that the prophets only repeated what they had heard directly from Hashem. However, this explanation of the Midrash includes another aspect as well:
One can wonder whether the interpretations of later sages are 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 carries the same weight as what was stated explicitly at Matan Torah. Let’s take the Rabbinical interpretations of pessukim, following the thirteen middos with which the Torah is analyzed. Even where they are subject to dispute, both opinions are the word of Hashem, and were equally spoken in Hashem’s voice. “Whatever an astute student will ever be mechadesh was given to Moshe at Sinai.”
The same applies to the Rabbinic ordinances throughout the centuries, both those instituted by the Tannaim and Amoraim, and those of later times which were accepted throughout the Jewish world. They, too, have Hashem’s Essence written into themselves.
The differing eras during which these seemingly new ideas appeared simply reflect a divinely pre-planned schedule: Hashem decided that certain ideas would be written by Moshe clearly in the Written Torah; others, as interpretations of the verses; and yet others, in the form of later takanos.
All this is another expression of the never-ending quality of the “great voice” of Matan Torah.
An Echoless Voice
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. This is why Hashem’s voice didn’t echo: Nothing stopped its path; it was absorbed into everything.
This isn’t just a recounting of what occurred then, but is relevant to us now. The “voice” of the Torah we learn today also permeates and affects all of our surroundings. The Gemara states that in the future, the walls of our homes will testify to our accomplishments. This is because today, our actions impact the inert objects in our vicinity (although it will only become apparent later on).
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 and our hearts feel, but there must also be “eikev asher shama Avraham”: every part of our body, including our heels, must also absorb the Torah we learn (as Chazal state that Torah is secured only when it is arrayed in all 248 limbs).
Thus, the “great voice” is present in every language and aspect of the world; it is found in every part of the Torah, including the interpretations and takanos of later generations; and it is absorbed not only by humans but even by domem, the domem within us and even the domem around us.
For further learning, see Likkutei sichos Vol. 4 ,לקוטי שיחות חלק ד’ פרשת ואתחנן.