These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

בהעלותך, beha’alotekha

Posted on June 8, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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this week, God instructs moshe to put into place a sound system in order to summon the community and gather the troops.  with two different trumpets at their disposal, God establishes a morse code used for relaying information.  two trumpets/long blast:  everyone gather around.  one trumpet/long blast:  just the chiefs.  one set of short blasts:  east divisions move forward.  two sets: south divisions move forward.  you get the picture.

you may have noticed a similar phenomenon while shopping at your local trader joe’s .  there too, they use their own secret morse code, relying on the one bell, two bell, three bell system to bring all hands on deck.  i have to say that both as a shopper and as a former trader joe’s employee, hearing those bells ringing, followed by then seeing someone or a bunch of someones come sprinting to the front registers to help, was always one of my favorite parts of the store.  in my head, i congratulate those swift employees who make it up there first and always prided myself on my own speedy response.

although, i think this trumpet call-to-action system represents more than just a competive race to the אהל מועד (tent of meeting).  to really be ready, one must be listening at all times.  while you’re stocking the lettuce, while you’re sneaking off in the backroom, while finding an open bag of cookies waiting to be tasted.  at all times, you have to be ready and waiting to hear those bells and come running.

in the climactic moment in which we receive the ten commandents at sinai, it is written that, “וכל העם ראים את הקולות… all the people saw the thunder” (shmot 20.15).  how can it be that the people see the thunder, these sounds in the air?  i want to suggest that this seeing is no ordinary type of seeing.  nor is the listening that one performs with the trumpets an ordinary type of listening.  but rather, both are a full body experience that demand that each of the senses participate and engage with the moment at hand.  in this way, we can speak of our experience at sinai as one in which we see, smell, touch, taste, and, of course, hear the thunder.

as we read this week’s parsha and prepare ourselves for shavuot, i hope we can engage in exactly this type of Torah.  the type that demands of us that we come fully into the experience, ready to activate and inundate each of our senses with the Torah before us.

whole body listens
every moment of each day
ready to be called

may the Torah enrich every part of our lives,