Shavuot: Seeing sound

Israel's first Chief Rabbi on the Sinai revelation: 'At their source, sound and sight are united.'

Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook ,

תמונת הרב קוק מתוך עטיפת החוברת
תמונת הרב קוק מתוך עטיפת החוברת
צילום: דוברות

וְכָל־הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת־הַלַּפִּידִם וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר.

“And all the people saw the sounds ...” (Exodus 20:15).

The Midrash calls our attention to an amazing aspect of the revelation at Sinai: the Jewish people were able to see what is normally only heard. What does this mean?

Standing near the Source

At their source, sound and sight are united. Only in our limited, physical world, in this alma deperuda (disjointed world), are these phenomena disconnected and detached. It is similar to our perception of lightning and thunder, which become increasingly separated from one another as the observer is more distanced from the source.

If we are bound and limited to the present, if we can only perceive the universe through the viewpoint of the temporal and the material, then we will always be aware of the divide between sight and sound.

The prophetic vision at Mount Sinai, however, granted the people a unique perspective, as if they were standing near the source of Creation. From that vantage point, they were able to witness the underlying unity of the universe. They were able to see sounds and hear sights.

God’s revelation at Sinai was registered by all their senses simultaneously, as a single, undivided perception.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback) p. 135. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, p. 491, sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison, ravkooktorah.org)

See also: Revealing Our Inner Essence


Sapphire from the Land of Israel. A New Light on the Weekly Torah Portion from the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook Silver from the Land of Israel. A New Light on the Sabbath and Holidays. from the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook. Stories from the Land of Israel The Kuzari

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