IF YOU ARE QUIET, YOU WILL HEAR
by Roy S. Neuberger
When my wife and I were college students, we joined the “Peace Movement,” protesting the Vietnam War. This was before we became aware of our Jewishness; we were looking for something to fill up the spiritual vacuum, but there was no peace in the Peace Movement.
We had no peace until our first Shabbos!
That was at Kibbutz Lavi in 1974, on a trip with Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. From this setting, we looked out over the glory of Eretz Yisroel, eastward toward the Golan Heights and the Kinneret, southward toward Har Tavor and all around at the magnificent mountains and valleys of the Galil. My wife says, “The only sound we heard were the birds singing. There were no machines.”
“Shalom Aleichem … peace be upon you, ministering angels … may your coming be in peace … may your departure be in peace….” We had tried it all, and found that there is no peace except where there is Shabbos. “The day of contentment and holiness have You given to Your people… a rest of peace and serenity and tranquility and security, a perfect rest in which You find favor.” (Shabbos Mincha)
Among the many forms of pollution in this world is noise pollution. In cities, one hears the constant sound of sirens. I understand that these sirens indicate that well-meaning help is on the way, but there is an atmosphere of crisis in the world today, and the sirens are a constant reminder of the dangers that seem to be circling ever closer. “All the nations surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down.” (Psalm 118)
Of course, the most dangerous sound is loshon hara/evil speech. We have to listen for sounds that usher in blessing. In Heaven the angels speak to each other: “They all accept upon themselves the yoke of heavenly sovereignty from one another and grant permission to one another to sanctify the One Who formed them ….” (Isaiah 6:3; Shacharis) And on earth, “those who fear Hashem spoke to one another, and Hashem listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem ….” (Malachi 3:16)
When the Great Shofar sounds, will we hear it? Here is how it may sound.
“Then I heard it. A tiny sound…. First I thought it was a baby crying…. The … shrieking stopped. Everybody was listening. But then it was clear that it was not a baby crying, because it continued without any pause whatsoever …. It was very steady. It became more intense … but not painful. ‘Perhaps it is the Shabbos siren in Jerusalem.’ Oh, I am hallucinating! It did not stop, but everything else stopped…. No one moved…. The sound got louder, and the men with the guns began to tremble …. Everyone was looking at each other. No one spoke. The sound came from everywhere … from above us and even below us.… It seemed to enter you and give you a feeling of peace. It was a sound more powerful than anything I had ever heard before.” (From my book, 2020 Vision)
This week we read: “Moshe turned and descended from the mountain, with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand…. Yehoshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moshe, ‘The sound of battle is in the camp!’ [Moshe] said, ‘It is not the sound of shouting of might nor the sound of shouting of weakness; a distressing sound do I hear.’” (Exodus 32:15-18) Rashi says, “A distressing sound [means] … the sound of blasphemy and vilification which distress the soul of whoever hears them….” (Shemos Rabbah 41:1)
The Or Hachaim comments: “The righteous [are able to] discern whether a sound is [one] of righteousness or the opposite…. This …is what Yehoshua sensed, [when it says that he] ‘heard the sound of the people’…. [It means that in] the resonance of the sound he heard from the camp of the Jews, he was able to discern an element of evil.” (Exodus 32:17-18) Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) heard a “sound of affliction,” which conveyed to him the understanding that the people “had renounced everything [that Hashem had commanded them], for avoda zara is equivalent to [a rejection of] the entire Torah.” (Horayos 8a)
Last week’s Parsha described the sound of the High Priest walking in the Holy Temple: “You shall make … pomegranates of turquoise, purple and scarlet wool … and gold bells between them, all around, a gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate on the hem of the robe, all around. It must be on Aharon in order to minister: its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary before Hashem and when he leaves ….” (Exodus 28:33-35)
This is the beautiful sound we long to hear. “The me’il (High Priest’s robe atones for loshon hara, for Hashem said: Let something that emits sound [through the ringing of its bells] come and atone for acts of emitting the [evil] sound [of loshon hara].” (Arachin 16a)
“The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork …. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard….” (Psalm 19)
“When the Temple was being built, it was built of complete quarried stone; hammers, chisels or any iron utensils were not heard in the temple when it was being built.” (I Kings 6:7; Haftaras Terumah) The Holy Temple will be built in silence.
“T’ka b’shofar gadol … Sound the Great Shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth.”
May we hear it soon in our days!