Receiving Torah


“Said Rabbi Abbahu in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: When the Holy One gave the Torah, no bird screeched, no bird flew, no ox bellowed, none of the angels flapped a wing, nor did the celestial beings chant ‘Holy, Holy, Holy!’ The sea did not roar, and none of the creatures uttered a sound. Throughout the entire world there was only a deafening silence as the Divine Voice went forth speaking: ‘I am the Lord your God….'” (Shemot Rabbah 29:9).
To receive Torah, we have to create a moment of “deafening silence,” just like the silence at Sinai that first allowed the words of Torah to be heard in the world.  This is, perhaps, harder for us than it was for the ancient Israelites, since we live at a time of constant flows of noise, speeches, polemics, arguments, and opinions that can envelop and overwhelm us.  To truly learn something we don’t already know, to assimilate knowledge that comes from somewhere outside of us, we need to seek silence, a respite not only from the noise that surrounds us but also from the constant inner activity of our own words and thoughts.  It is a simple but seemingly forgotten truth:  to hear, we must be silent.  Only when we find that place of silence within ourselves can we open ourselves to the flow of Torah, to the possibilities of learning that can bring us insight, comfort, challenge, meaning, and peace.  As we begin the holiday of Shavuot Saturday night, may we all seek the silence from which true learning can come.  And may our connection to Torah always bring us joy.