Sight, Sound and Synaesthesia
What the hec is synaesthesia? We shall find out on page 5.
Of late, the Oisvorfer has been studying the parsha in reverse. He starts with the last aliya and moves backwards to the front of the parsha. Why? To find topics and ideas not previously discussed in the past nine years since this review began with one reader back in 2010. And taka, the effort has paid off; let’s get real; most you rarely, if ever, get to the end of the parsha. It’s taka at the shiviee aliya (7th reading), where the Oisvorfer came across one posik that is the topic of interest for this week.
That being said, welcome to Parshas Yisroy, a parsha named after a goy, a priest mamish, one who worshipped idols for many years, one, who may have been a close advisor to Paroy while the Yiddin were enslaved. Why the heylige Toirah has parshas named after goyim (to include Bolok and even Noiach), ver veyst, ober, azoy iz iz (that’s how it is). Then again, he did have seven daughters, one of whom was married to Moishe; that could not hurt his chances of getting a parsha named for himself. Nowadays, for the right price, mistama one can get Art Scroll to place his/her name alongside any parsha, and for a really large sum, some other publisher might consider only your name instead of what’s there now. After all, do names of parshas appear anywhere in the heylige Toirah scroll itself? They do not! Seemingly, names of parshas came along much later; exactly when, ver veyst? Some say names were first given by Saadia Gaon who lived in the 10th century, ober if you look at his writings, the names of some of them don’t exactly match up. Two bottom lines: when exactly parsha names were introduced, no one knows for sure. What is clear is that the standardization of parsha names is of more recent vintage. Two: in hyntige tzeytin (today’s world and times) of dedications, kimat everything is for sale. Veyter.
In any event, avada you all know that it’s in this week’s parsha where Revelation takes place. The RBSO comes down from above and delivers -amidst a thunder and light show- the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments). Incidentally, not more than 40 days later, the Yiddin will have –as discussed last week- violated at least three of them. So happens that the word used by Yihoishua to describe the partying with the eygel (golden calf) is ‘kolos’ meaning sounds. Says the heylige Toirah (Shmois 32:17-18, azoy.
|17. When Yihoishua heard the voice of the people in their shouting, he said to Moishe: “There is a voice of battle in the camp!”||יזוַיִּשְׁמַ֧ע יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ אֶת־ק֥וֹל הָעָ֖ם בְּרֵעֹ֑ה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה ק֥וֹל מִלְחָמָ֖ה בַּמַּֽחֲנֶֽה:|
18. But Moishe said: “It is neither a voice shouting victory, nor a voice shouting defeat; a voice of blasphemy I hear.”
|יחוַיֹּ֗אמֶר אֵ֥ין קוֹל֙ עֲנ֣וֹת גְּבוּרָ֔ה וְאֵ֥ין ק֖וֹל עֲנ֣וֹת חֲלוּשָׁ֑ה ק֣וֹל עַנּ֔וֹת אָֽנֹכִ֖י שֹׁמֵֽעַ:|
We will be discussing sounds just below. Yishoishua heard the sounds of the reveling, of the partying and –according to some- of the sexual immorality taking place below while Moishe is still on top. Perhaps the Yiddin bit off more than they could chew. Perhaps, they uttered the words “na’seh v’nishma” with good intentions, an exuberant bunch they were (for short intervals), ober in reality they could not possibly follow all the rules. Can anyone? Shoin, efsher the RBSO knows that, expects not too much compliance of us, and is therefore also forgiving –at times- of those who transgress. He’s also eager for us to apologize and return. That being said, history teaches us that every once in a while, He got really angry and wiped out many at a time as we will be reading in the coming weeks and months. In later generations, and again in hyntige tzeytin (today times), from time to time, He allows many to perish; who can understand these things? Zicher not me.
Avada there is no more important parsha than Yisroy davka because it was at Revelation where the Yiddin married the RBSO –metaphorically avada- and where they became a nation unto Him, His chosen people. For the past two years the heylige Oisviorfer has been working on a project, an app that involves sight and sound. In connection therewith, he has incorporated into his power point presentations and website, quotes found in the heylige Gemora and elsewhere which tells us that one cannot compare hearing to seeing (eyn doime shmiah li’riyo). Being an eye witness is logically better than hearing of an incident. And the combination? Cannot be beaten! Grada the Oisvorfer’s project –designed for attorneys and those searching for one- will be ready in the coming days; more to come. And we begin this week’s parsha with that opening, why? Though our parsha is mostly associated with Revelation, the marriage of the Yiddin to the RBSO and the Aseres Hadibrois, there are a number of pisukim which vividly describe the scene; the sights and sounds of the day, and the days leading up to Revelation. Sight and sound is prominently featured; let us then see what is said.
We shall begin by looking at a posik, maybe a few, that appear just before and after the Ten Commandments were read –some by the RBSO Himself- and others, seemingly by Moishe as the Yiddin were having an out-of-body experience which frightened them greatly; who could blame them? More on that below. Can you even imagine being there? The RBSO was atop Har Sinai speaking mamish directly to His people. Let’s see what has Rashi, the heylige Gemora and many a medrish cooked up this week, what was bothering them, ober let’s begin with the posik which in Shmois 20:15 tells us azoy:
וְכָל־הָעָם֩ רֹאִ֨ים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹ֜ת וְאֶת־הַלַּפִּידִ֗ם וְאֵת֙ ק֣וֹל הַשֹּׁפָ֔ר וְאֶת־הָהָ֖ר עָשֵׁ֑ן וַיַּ֤רְא הָעָם֙ וַיָּנֻ֔עוּ וַיַּֽעַמְד֖וּ מֵֽרָחֹֽק: 15
“And all the people could see the sounds and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the smoking mountain; the people saw and they moved back and they stood from afar.”
Did you read that raboyseyee? The heylige Toirah tells us that the Yiddin mamish saw sounds. They saw the sounds, or the sounds of the thunder. How does one see thunder? The Oisvorfer has heard thunder and seen many things, thunder is not one of them. Moreover, as the posik continues, they also seemingly saw the sounds of the shofar. Did the heylige Toirah mean to tell us that they but heard the noise of the thunder and the shofar, but did not actually see them? Ober raboyseyee, let’s recall that the heylige Toirah was dictated by the RBSO Himself, and that Moishe wrote it down word for word – so our rebbe’s taught us- and if the Toirah says the Yiddin experienced sound, they saw sound, avada they did. Ober how, and what’s pshat? These very questions are zicher not the Oisvorfer’s; many an exegete, beginning with Rashi of course, wondered about the wording; what specifically was the heylige Toirah telling us; how could the Yiddin see sound?
Disclaimer: Says the Rambam: studying Revelation is perilous, yikes! We must tread carefully. Indeed, Rambam writes that the words in Shmois 19:24 which give these instruction “V’hakohanim v’ho’om al yehersu la’alois el Hashem” (the koihanim and the people- they hall not destroy to ascend unto Hashem lest He will make a breach against them –in other words, they would be putting their lives in danger were they to ascent and attempt to get too close), serve as a general warning against attempting to understand concepts that are beyond us. Seemingly, only Moishe, to whom the RBSO revealed Himself, merited this understanding. Why him? One pshat tells us because he initially showed trepidation about investigating that which was beyond him. Recall Moishe’s reaction as he encountered the burning bush (Shemois 3:6): “Vaysteir Moishe panav ki yarei mei’habit el ha’Elokim” (Moishe hid his face for he was afraid to gaze forward to G-d). Moishe chapped that the burning bush was none of his business; for keeping his nose clean, he was given clarity regarding Revelation. Lesson to you: best to turn away should you encounter a burning bush, if you chap. In fact, best to turn away even if not burning, also if you chap; if it’s not your bush, leave it be.
Ober as to us, not so poshit. Grada, the Oisvorfer recalls with clarity his childhood. His mind would wander, he wanted to know how it all started; he was contemplating the RBSO; how He get here, and a few other questions. Bikitzur he asked his father, OBM who told him azoy: it’s dangerous to delve into that topic for too long; it could make one mishuga. Shoin, need I say more? This might –after further review- also be emes when trying to chap Revelation, is it? Let’s find out.
From the plain text, it epes appears that the Yiddin experienced a degree of heightened extrasensory awareness; even the eyes could see the thunder and the sounds of the shofar, so the posik tells us. Ober our sages of yore were left wondering azoy: how could the heylige Toirah proclaim that “the entire people saw”? Ershtens, how can one see sound? Moreover, it was zicher the case that amidst a nation of tizbrochene mentchin- (broken, ravaged people) who had been enslaved for at least 210 years, there must have been some who were rendered blind in both eyes -efsher form birth and or from physical abuse they suffered at the hands of the Mitzrim? How could they and even those with sight see the sounds?
Moreover, says the heylige Gemora azoy about Revelation: it blew people’s minds. In Oisvorfer parlance and a phrase he uses quite often –more often than the eishes chayil likes to hear- the event was mind-boggling. Ver ken dus farshteyn (who can chap this)? Says the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 88a) azoy: the Yiddin present at Revelation all fell down, they mamish died and needed to be revived. Medrish will tell us that we need to read the word ‘dead’ as meaning fainted; they didn’t really die like in dead mamish, instead we need to chap that from the awesomeness of the experience, they all fainted. Is that pshat? In Shir Hashirim 5:6 we read these words. “It was so remarkable, an experience, so sensational, that, that נפשי יצאה בדברו – “our souls left our bodies when we heard His word.” Did they faint or were they dead? With each utterance that issued forth from the Mouth of the RBSO, the souls of the Yiddin flew from their bodies, and the RBSO had to bring back down the dew with which He will resurrect the dead and revive them. Mistama you didn’t know that the RBSO will be masking use of dew during tichiyas hamayseim (resurrection of the dead). What made them die or faint? Says Rashi, who knew everything, azoy: “They saw what was audible, which is impossible to see elsewhere”. What that means, ver veyst? They saw what was audible? How can a person see sounds? We’re about to address that.
Says Rebbe Eliezer azoy: This is to make known the praise of the Yiddin; when they all stood before Har Seenai to receive the Toirah, it tells us that there were no blind among them, as it is said, “All the people witnessed;” it tells that there were no mutes among them, as it is said “All the people answered together” (Shmois 19:8); and it teaches that there were no deaf among them, as it is says, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will listen to” (Shmois 24:7); and it teaches that there were no lame among them, as it is says, “and they stood at the bottom of the mountain” (Shmois 19:17); and it teaches that there were no mentally impaired among them, as it is says “You have been shown to understand” (Devorim 4:35). You hear this raboyseyee? Seemingly at some point just before the RBSO came down to deliver the Aseres Hadibrois, He also made sure to heal the blind, the deaf, the lame, and others. In plain English: among other miracles the RBSO performed that day, and in the days before, He seemingly healed the Yiddin of all their infirmities. And just like that, all among the people were able to see, speak, hear, stand, understand. And that being said, how could they see thunder and or other sounds? Let’s see what others had to say.
Says the Rashbam, azoy: what the Yiddin saw that day was “hail and the stones” flying around. Ober didn’t the posik tell us they saw sounds of thunder and sounds of the shofar? It does! Ober says the Rashbam it means they saw hail and stones. Shoin, go argue! But wait: he has proof that hail and stones acted together during Revelation. And his proof? Let’s hearken back to the makos (plagues). One of them was hail during which the hail was accompanied by stones. Shoin: just like thunder and hail went together back in Mitzraim, they were also a duo here at Revelation, and what the Yiddin saw were the stones flying around with as it thundered. All is good. The bottom line: thunder accompanied hail back in Mitzrayim, thunder accompanied flying stones at Revelation, and what the Yiddin saw and heard was the combo.
Ober says the Seforno so gishmak, azoy: they didn’t really see thunder; what they saw was in their hearts. They internalized sounds. And his proof? A posik in Koheles (Ecclesiastes 1:16) which states ‘and my heart saw,’ pshat being that they meditated on the idea of the sounds. In other words: they did not see real sounds. And says Rabaynu Bechaya, ‘seeing’ here means ‘understanding,’ as in Bereishis (27:27) where a blind Yitzchok states, “Ah, I see, the scent of my son…”Mamish gishmak. In other words: when we use the phrase “Oh, I see!” it means, “I understand,” I chap. In other words: they did not see real thunder; they understood what was happening. Ober does everyone agree that the Yiddin experienced the sight of sound only but poetically, or idiomatically? Of course not! Says the Kli Yokor: every word that came out of the RBSO’s mouth, immediately began to take form, and became so tangible that they could see the letters flying in the air like they were written in front of them. Said Rebbe Akiva, “they saw a word of fire come out of the Mouth of Might, and be engraved upon the tablets.” In other words: they did see the sounds. Which was it? Ver veyst!
And Rashi? What does he think? Says he azoy: “They saw that which is heard, which would be impossible to see in any other place. Which means what? Rashi doesn’t explain. The phrase is unusual, he suggests, precisely because it is meant to describe a highly unusual experience. Somehow, in this extraordinary moment, they could actually see sound. Why not? Was the RBSO not capable of making them see sound? Avada He was! We must kler that for this special occasion, the RBSO included the ability for His people to hear and also see sound. With expanded senses, they were able to chap the enormity of the event. Ober is there mamish a concept like this? Or, was this a onetime event?
Nu, as it turns out, the RBSO may have introduced this extra-sensory concept at Revelation ober it appears that He left I here for some to enjoy. And it’s called synaesthesia. The great Achroin, Wikipedia says this about that: “it’s a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” There are people in our world who actually have this condition. They hear music, for example, and report that every note has its own particular color to it. There is also a medical explanation for this type of phenomenon. Says “Psychology Today” that synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color.” One could postulate that three million Jewish People simultaneously experienced synaesthesia there at the Revelation at the foot of Mount Sinai. The bottom line: for a moment time, those selected to be eyes witnesses to Revelation were given these magical powers; they could mamish see and hear sounds. In hyntige tzeytin (in today’s times) synaesthesia is typically a chronic condition.
And the final bottom line: Says the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 2:330), azoy: “Know this and remember it, that it is impossible for any person to expound the revelation on Mount Sinai more fully than our Sages have done, since it is one of the secrets of the Toirah. It is very difficult to have a true conception of the revelation and what occurred in it, for there has never been before, nor there ever again, anything like it. Know this.” Our job is to believe.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv