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"a great voice that did not cease" (Deut 5:19)  - "The voice did not have an echo"
The Torah resides in the physical world.


In describing the Voice with which G‑d gave the Torah, we find in the Torah portion of Vaes’chanan , that it was “a great voice that did not cease.”1

The Midrash2 offers three explanations:

a) The voice was not limited to the Holy Tongue. Rather, it divided into seven voices, and then into the languages of all 70 nations.

b) The voice did not cease at that time, but goes on constantly. For from the voice that gave the Torah streams forth those things that were subsequently revealed through all the prophets and sages.

c) The voice did not have an echo.

What is the Midrash teaching with these three comments?

Non-Jewish nations are commanded to observe the Seven Noahide laws, which in turn consist of many sub-commandments. In fact, when they are able, Jews are to assist them in observing these laws.3

In order that we realize that the nations’ laws as well are connected with the giving of the Torah, the Midrash informs us that the voice was divided into the 70 languages of the nations; their commandments as well came because G‑d gave them to Moshe on Sinai.4

Our sages also inform us that Jews were exiled among the nations to elevate the sparks of holiness found there.5 This is accomplished by using the words of those nations for spiritual purposes.

The Midrash here teaches that it was the very voice of Torah that descended and vested itself within the languages of the nations, so that they can be used for Torah purposes. When this is done, the “voice” of the nations becomes the voice of Torah.6

Anochi , the first word of the Ten Commandments, is an acronym, says the Gemara ,7 for G‑d’s statement: “I have written Myself in, and given of Myself totally in the Ten Commandments.”

One may mistakenly think that this applies only to the Ten Commandments, while those portions of Torah that were revealed later, especially what was revealed through the prophets and sages of subsequent generation, does not have the same spiritual impetus.

The Midrash therefore tells us that the voice that gave the Torah never ceases; it continues in the voice of the prophets and Torah sages. For every aspect of Torah has its own particular time, and its own particular person through whom it should be revealed.

The revelation of G‑dliness that accompanied the giving of the Torah penetrated all of creation. Thus we find the following statement about the “voice” with which G‑d gave the Torah: “The sound of G‑d’s giving the Torah emanated from all four sides as well as from above and below.” Moreover, the sound infused even inanimate matter.

The Midrash therefore says that the voice did not produce an echo. For an echo results when sound waves are not absorbed by an object, but bounce off. Since the sound of G‑d’s giving of the Torah penetrated all matter, it was impossible for the sound to echo.

This was so because, as indicated by the word Anochi, G‑d revealed His quintessential Essence at the time He gave the Ten Commandments, for G‑d imbued the Torah with His Essence. Since G‑d is the one entity that is truly infinite, it follows that at the time the Torah was given, nothing was impervious to the revelation; it penetrated even the grossest matter.

An echo, symbolizing something that rejected or was impervious to the voice of Torah, was thus literally impossible.

From https://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/92402/jewish/Vaeschanan-A-Voice-That-Does-Not-Cease.htm

1.    .Devarim 5:19.
2.    .Shmos Rabbah end of ch. 28.
3.    .Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 8:10.
4.    .Ibid., 10:11.
5.    .Pesachim 87b. In accordance with the interpretation in Torah Or, p. 11b.
6.    See Torah Or, p. 77d.
7.    .Shabbos 105a, in accordance with the text of the Ein Yaakov.


A Voice With No Echo
The Midrash1 offers three interpretations of the phrase,2 “A loud and unceasing voice,” which describes G‑d’s granting of the Ten Commandments:

a) G‑d’s voice was divided into seven voices and they further subdivided until the Ten Commandments were heard in all 70 languages of the world.

b) The voice continues to resound, and from this same voice, all the prophets and sages3 of the coming generations derived their prophecy and insights.

c) Unlike natural voices, this voice did not have an echo.

The first two interpretations clearly indicate the greatness of the giving of the Torah, showing that G‑d’s voice was not limited to the Holy Tongue, or to the specific time of the revelation, but extended into other languages and subsequent generations. Yet the fact that G‑d’s voice did not have an echo does not seem to reflect its greatness. On the contrary, it appears to indicate a certain weakness.

Also, explanation is necessary, for G‑d does not perform a miracle unnecessarily.4 Since a voice generally causes an echo, the fact that this voice did not — particularly since it was a strong voice — required a deviation from the natural order. What was the reason for this deviation?

The commentators explain the necessity for this miracle as follows: Were there an echo, one might have thought that the echo was a second voice. Rather than allow for such a misconception, G‑d prevented the voice which pronounced the Ten Commandments from having an echo.

This interpretation, however, is insufficient. For an echo is clearly related to the original voice; it has the same tone and the same words. When the voice proclaiming the Ten Commandments came from all four directions simultaneously, the Jews did not err.5 If so, it is unlikely that they would err with regard to an echo, for it is obvious to any listener that an echo is merely a copy.

Another point: The Torah only relates stories when they serve as instruction in our Divine service. What lesson can we learn from the fact that the voice proclaiming the Ten Commandments did not have an echo?

When G‑d Spoke To Man
The Ten Commandments begin with the word Anochi,6 interpreted by our Sages7 as an acronym for the Aramaic phrase: אנא נפשי כתבית יהבית, “I wrote down and gave over Myself”; i.e., G‑d invested Himself in the Ten Commandments.

Moreover, when giving these commandments, He spoke to every Jew individually. This is indicated by the use of the singular E-lohecha (“your G‑d”). Furthermore, this applies not only to the Jews who stood at Sinai, but to all Jews of all time. As our Sages state,8 every Jewish soul — those who lived before,9 and those who lived afterwards — were present at the giving of the Torah. Every Jew heard G‑d tell him — “I am G‑d your L‑rd.” It is as if He gave His entire essence to every Jew individually.

Nor should one think that this relationship is confined to the time of the Ten Commandments, for it is perpetuated by the prophets and sages of every generation. For their words were not recited on their own initiative. Instead, “it was the spirit of G‑d which spoke through them, and His word was on their tongue.”10

One should not err and think that the teachings of the prophets and sages do not relate to the Sinai experience, being like the commands given to the Patriarchs before the giving of the Torah.11 This is not so. G‑d invests Himself in these teachings just as He invested Himself in the Ten Commandments.

Similarly, like the Ten Commandments, these subsequent teachings are instructions for every Jew. Every Jew is obligated to fulfill them, not only because they were granted to our people as a whole, but because they were spoken to him or her personally. This is the implication of our Sages’ connection of G‑d’s incessant voice to the teachings of the prophets and Sages. Their teachings are an expression of the voice of Sinai. Here too, G‑d speaks to every Jew individually.

The fact that a teaching was not revealed until spoken by a particular prophet or sage does not present a problem, for “until that moment, license was not granted for this prophecy.”12 For “there is an appropriate time for every purpose.”13 Every concept in the Torah has its appropriate time when the voice that sounded at Sinai will cause it to be revealed.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the interpretation that G‑d’s voice resounded in 70 languages. Mankind at large is obligated to observe seven universal laws.14 The Jewish people are obligated to compel15 — and when they do not have dominion over the gentiles, to convince — the people at large to observe these seven laws.

To emphasize that these seven universal laws are an integral dimension of the Sinai experience, our Sages relate that G‑d’s voice resounded in all 70 languages. This shows that even the mitzvos to be communicated in these 70 languages are part of the giving of the Torah, and must be observed for that reason. As the Rambam rules,16 every non-Jew must observe these laws because they were commanded by G‑d as conveyed through Moshe, and not because they coincide with the dictates of mortal thought.

The Refinement of Speech
Another fundamental concept that can be derived from the fact that at Mt. Sinai, G‑d’s voice resounded in 70 languages relates to our Sages’ comment that:17 “The Jews were exiled among the nations solely so that they would be joined by converts.”

In this sense, “converts” refers not only to humans who accept the Jewish faith, but also to the sparks of holiness contained in the material substance of the gentile nations. The Jews’ efforts in refining the material substance of these lands can tap the G‑dliness of these sparks and elevate them to their source in holiness.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the 70 languages. When Jews use these languages for a Divine purpose — and more particularly, when they are used to teach Torah concepts, as was the practice of the Talmud Sages who taught in Aramaic — the sparks of holiness contained in the 70 languages are elevated. Figuratively, this can be described as Jews being joined by converts.18

One might think that the Torah as it is studied in translation lacks the holiness of the original Sinai experience. For this reason, our Sages emphasize that at Sinai itself, G‑d’s voice resounded in 70 languages. Although in translation, it is enclothed in garments of a lower level, the inner voice remains the same. Indeed, the fact that it descends to a lower level indicates that it has a higher source,19 as Chassidus explains:20 “The higher an entity’s source, the lower it will descend.”

These explanations help us comprehend the uniqueness of the first two interpretations offered by the Midrash on the verse cited above. Nevertheless, the third explanation — that the voice did not have an echo — still requires explanation.

Natural, Not Miraculous
An echo reflects the pattern of Or Chozer, a rebounding light. When a light is drawn down, but reaches a point where an obstacle prevents it from being drawn down further, it rebounds. Similarly, when sound waves strike an object through which they cannot pass, they bounce back.21 This “bouncing” takes place when the obstruction does not absorb the light or sound waves.

When G‑d announced “I am G‑d your L‑rd,” there was nothing that could prevent the passage of His voice; it pervaded all existence, even inanimate objects. Every entity was permeated with His speech.

The giving of the Torah was a foretaste of the Era of Redemption,22 at which time: “The glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see.”23 Awareness of G‑d will permeate even ordinary material existence.

The revelation at Sinai was of a similar nature. For this reason, G‑d’s voice did not have an echo. This was not a miracle, but rather a natural phenomenon. Since there was nothing blocking the passage of G‑d’s voice, and His voice was absorbed into the material substance of the world, it did not bounce back.24

When Our Walls Will Speak
This is not merely a story of the past. When a Jew studies Torah, the words are absorbed by the walls of his home. As our Sages say,25 in the Era of the Redemption, “the walls of a person’s house will testify concerning him.” At present, this evidence remains hidden, but in the Era of the Redemption, “a stone from the wall will cry out, and a beam of wood will answer it.”26

(Even today, the existence of this evidence is significant. With regards to questions of modesty and other issues, we see that Torah law distinguishes between the performance of certain acts in private and in public.27 )

A foretaste of the revelations of the Era of the Redemption is reflected in the lives of the tzaddikim. In this vein, the Jerusalem Talmud relates28 that one of the elders of the Galilee possessed the staff of Rabbi Meir, and it would teach him. The question arises: How can a staff teach? And more particularly, how can it teach a higher level of knowledge than that possessed by these Sages?29

Nevertheless, Rabbi Meir’s Torah knowledge permeated the material objects in his environment. The staff absorbed his wisdom, as it were. And when the later Sage received this staff, the influence that was hidden in it was revealed.30

For the same reason, several of our Rabbis gave orders31 for their coffins to be made from the table or lectern at which they studied, or at which they gave food to the poor. For the wood of the table or lectern absorbed the Torah which they studied, and will testify to this effect.

For the Heel to Hear
All the revelations of the Era of the Redemption depend on our Divine service at the present time.32 Just as created beings are divided into four categories: inanimate matter, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, and humans, so too, these four categories are manifest within every human being.33 For example, our heads (and our minds) represent the human dimension of our being, and our heels (and the quality of deed) represent the inanimate dimension. To precipitate the coming of a time when the revelation of G‑dliness will permeate even material existence, we must study Torah so that it permeates even our most material dimension, our heel.

This is reflected in the Torah’s praise of Avraham:34 “eikev asher shoma bikoli. Literally, this means “because he listened to My voice,” but figuratively, it can be interpreted to mean “his heel heard My voice,” i.e., Avraham’s commitment was so great that even his heel appreciated G‑dliness.

Similarly, at the time of the giving of the Torah, G‑d’s voice permeated material existence. Spirituality and material existence are two opposites, and the spiritual cannot usually permeate the material, nor can the material absorb the spiritual. Nevertheless, at the time of the giving of the Torah, this mutual exclusivity was suspended.

This demonstrates the greatness of G‑d’s voice. It is totally unlimited, issuing from a level at which there is no difference between the material and the spiritual, and enabling the two to be fused together.35

Similarly with regard to our Divine service, the Torah’s ability to permeate even our heels stems from its unlimited G‑dliness.36 Its intellectual dimension is not sufficient, for intellect cannot relate to inanimate matter, or to the dimension of our being which parallels inanimate matter.

When the Torah permeates every aspect of a person’s being, it will be retained. As our Sages comment:37 “If the Torah is enwrapped in a person’s 248 limbs, it will be absorbed.” For studying at this level lifts a person above G‑d’s Throne of Glory, and at that level, “there is no forgetfulness.”38 This is an unlimited spiritual peak, a level which imbues man’s study with the unlimited dimensions of G‑d’s voice at Sinai.

When a person’s Torah study penetrates every aspect of his being, even his inanimate dimensions, and is never-ending — i.e., there will be no forgetfulness — and it will also affect his conduct after he has concluded studying,39 when — with the Torah’s license — he is involved in material activity. In all matters, it is obvious that he has studied Torah,40 for his learning is reflected in everything he does. This enables him to “know G‑d in all his ways,”41 and to make this world a dwelling for Him.

From https://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/2613814/jewish/Likkutei-Sichot-Vaeschanan.htm
1.    Shmos Rabbah, the conclusion of ch. 28.
2.    Devarim 5:19
3.    For the Midrash states: “Also the sages which arise in every generation; each one received his inspiration from Sinai.” See also Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar, p. 15c, and the sources mentioned there.
4.    See the Derashos HaRan, Derush Ches, which states: “G‑d desires to preserve the natural order whenever possible. Since the natural order is dear to Him, He will change it only when it is necessary.” See also Shabbos 53b.
5.    Baalei Tosafos, the conclusion of Parshas Yisro.
6.    Shmos 20:2; Devarim 5:6. Similarly, our Sages (Pesikta Rabbah, ch. 21) interpret the word Anochi as an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “I gave and wrote down the Ten Commandments.”
7.    Shabbos 105a, according to the text of the Ein Yaakov.
8.    Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 41; Shmos Rabbah, the conclusion of ch. 28; Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Nitzavim sec. 3; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 91a; Vol. II, p. 83b; Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 49 (86a).
9.    The giving of the Torah was intended for the souls enclothed in bodies. Nevertheless, the souls of the subsequent generations were granted an out-of-body experience of the giving of the Torah so that afterwards they could merit the revelations of Gan Eden in the World to Come and the Resurrection of the Dead.
10.    The wording is taken from the Alter Rebbe’s introduction to the Tanya. Note also the concepts explained in the preceding sichah.
11.    The Patriarchs were also commanded to fulfill certain mitzvos. Nevertheless, their observance of these mitzvos cannot be compared to our observance after the giving of the Torah. For it was only at the giving of the Torah that G‑d’s essence was drawn down.
For this reason, “all the prohibitions we observe and the mitzvos we fulfill are observed because of the commandments which G‑d commanded Moshe, and not because of the commandments which G‑d gave the prophets who preceded him (Rambam, the Commentary to the Mishnah, Chulin, the conclusion of ch. 7).
12.    Shmos Rabbah, the conclusion of ch. 28.
13.    Koheles 3:1
14.    The laws which the gentiles are obligated to observe include several concepts that apply with regard to the Torah as a whole, e.g., the prohibition against studying the Torah or resting on Shabbos.
15.    Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 8:10.
16.    Ibid.:11.
17.    Pesachim 87b; see the explanation in Torah Or, p. 11b.
18.    See Torah Or, p. 77d.
19.    For this reason, Anochi, which refers to G‑d’s essence, is an Egyptian word. See the sichah to Parshas Yisro in this series, where this concept is explained.
20.    See Shaarei Orah, the maamar entitled Yaviu Levush Malchus, ch. 12ff., and ch. 32ff.
21.    Bas kol, the Hebrew term for echo used by the Midrash is also employed by the Talmud according to the interpretation of Tosafos, Sanhedrin 11a, entry bas. See also the gloss of Tosafos Yom Tov, Yevamos 16:6. Were I not diffident, I would say that it would appear, that there is a printing error in the Tosafos cited, and the proper text should be “speak (מדבר) with power,” rather than “strike (מכה) with power.”
22.    Tanya, ch. 36.
23.    Yeshayahu 40:5.
24.    Both factors are significant. Those dimensions of G‑d’s word which were relevant to that particular entity were absorbed within it, but those which were not relevant were not blocked by it.
25.    Taanis 11a, et al; Zohar, Vol. II, p. 28a. These sources speak about the walls testifying regarding the unsavory conduct of their owner. Nevertheless, the same concept can be applied with regard to positive conduct. Indeed, based on the principle (Sotah 11a) “the attributes of good are more powerful than the contrary attributes,” it follows that the influence of positive conduct will be greater.
26.    Chabakuk 2:11.
27.    The concept that the hidden effects of our conduct are significant is reflected in our Sages’ praise (Yoma 47a) of Kimchis for not allowing the walls of her home to see her hair. On the surface, it is difficult to understand how this is an expression of modesty. Nevertheless, because of the hidden effects of our conduct, care in such matters is significant. See the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 2:1.
28.    Moed Kattan 3:1; Nedarim 9:1.
29.    This is reflected in the Jerusalem Talmud’s statement that there were no faults in these Sages’ conduct that required correction.
30.    In particular, it was Rabbi Meir’s staff which conveyed this knowledge. The sage who received the staff was a judge, and therefore it was appropriate that he possessed a staff, for this is one of the tools of the judges (Sanhedrin 7b). Indeed, a staff is more appropriate than the other tools mentioned there. For this reason, the Jerusalem Talmud uses the Hebrew term (מקל) makal for staff, rather than the term mish’enes or the like. Note the commentaries to this passage of the Jerusalem Talmud.
See also the gloss of the Sefer Meiras Enayim 1:1 to Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 1:1 which asks why the Shulchan Aruch does not mention the requirement for a court to have the tools mentioned in that passage, and why most of the courts in his time were not equipped with them.
The Sefer Meiras Anayim answers that perhaps the tools mentioned by the Talmud are required only by a court which possesses the unique Semichah conveyed by Moshe Rabbeinu. After the early period of the post-Mishnaic era, when that Semichah was no longer perpetuated, it was not necessary for a court to have those tools.
This resolution is sufficient with regard to the Shulchan Aruch. It, however, is not satisfactory with regard to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, for the Rambam mentions laws that apply even in the time of the Beis HaMikdash.
The omission of this requirement by the Rambam can be resolved as follows: The standard version text of the passage in Sanhedrin mentioned previously speaks of the necessity of a judge to possess the tools of the court; it does not mention which tools he must possess. Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi and Rabbeinu Asher had a different version which specifies several of the tools which a judge would possess. (See also the gloss of the Beis Chadash to the Tur, Choshen Mishpat, loc. cit.) The Rambam’s version of the text followed the standard version and thus leaves the term “the tools of the judges” undefined. The Rambam interprets that term as referring to a staff and a strap. And these he indeed mentions at the very beginning of Hilchos Sanhedrin 1:1.
In a related matter, the text of the Mishneh Torah mentions “those who travel.” Seemingly, since the ones who travel are not the judges themselves, but the police (Hilchos Geneivah, the conclusion of ch. 8), it appears that the text contains a printing error, and the correct version is “and they travel.”
31.    See Kav HaYashor, ch. 46.
32.    Tanya, ch. 37.
33.    Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Pekudei, sec. 3; Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 69 (p. 100a). See also Avos d’Rabbi Nosson, ch. 38; Koheles Rabbah 1:4; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 134b; Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. I, ch. 72; Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar, p. 5a.
34.    Bereishis 26:5. See the interpretation in Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 253.
35.    The fact that the walls of a person’s home will testify regarding his unfavorable conduct relates to the concept that the fusion of spiritual and material reflects a very high level of G‑dliness. For the potential for such testimony comes as a result of this phenomenon.
To explain: G‑d has made evil parallel to good. This is reflected in the fact that sins cause blemishes in elevated levels of spirituality. For this reason, we see that through teshuvah, a repentent person can reach a higher level than a completely righteous one (cf. Berachos 34b). This indicates that the blemish caused by sin also affects these levels. See the section in Kuntres Acharon entitled Lehavin Mah Shekasuv BeShaar HaYichudim, and the Mitteler Rebbe’s text Shaar HaBechirah.
36.    To cite a parallel, the maamar entitled Shuvah in the series of maamarim entitled Yom Tov Shel Rosh HaShanah, 5666, states that the source of the Torah is the Or Ein Sof, G‑d’s Infinite Light, as it existed before the tzimtzum. This is indicated by the phrase (Yechezkel 1:25): “And there was a voice above the heavens.” As stated in the narrative of creation, the heavens separated the higher realms from our material world. The Torah, because its source is “above the heavens,” has the potential to be drawn down within our material world.
37.    Eruvin 54a; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:9.
38.    See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:10.
That law continues: “This Torah ascends... but does not ascend past....” This appears to be a printing error, and the correct wording would be: “This forgetfulness ascends...,” as reflected in the conclusion of the passage: “Forgetfulness does not reach....”
39.    See Sotah 21a.
40.    See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De’os 5:1.
41.    Mishlei 3:6. See the sichah to Parshas Terumah in this series, where this concept is explained.






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