Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Yitro 5776

We’re excited to welcome Sababa USY to our shul this Shabbat, and they’ll do the teaching as well as the davening at Shabbat morning services. I’m sure that the sight of talented teens leading and participating so actively will be music to my ears.
 
Yes, the mixed sensory metaphor (“sight…music”) was intentional. It’s reflective of a fascinating phrase in this week’s Torah reading, Yitro: “Vekhol ha’am roim et hakolot–all the people saw the thunder” (Exodus 20:15). Now granted that the experience of revelation at Sinai must have been intense, but I confess that I have never seen thunder, and I dare say neither have you. What are we to do with this mixture of senses? 
 
There are certainly other ways to translate the word roim, which usually indicates sight. For example, the two JPS translations rendered it as “perceived” (the old translation) and “witnessed” (new). But the Bible could have chosen other words, and it didn’t. What’s the Torah trying to teach us? Rashi simply says that seeing a sound is impossible in any other situation, underscoring the absolute uniqueness of the Sinai experience. Not everyone agrees with Rashi, though. On Friday evening, we’ll see what Ibn Ezra had to say, or perhaps we’ll hear what he wrote. Wait, I mixed those senses again!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi David Wise