From Where I Stand
By Rabbi Yossy Goldman
The Ten Commandments are repeated in this week’s parashah as part of Moshe’s review of the last 40 years. He describes how G‑d spoke those words in a mighty voice that did not end (Devarim 5:19). One of the explanations offered by Rashi is that Moshe is contrasting G‑d’s voice with human voices. The finite voice of a human being, even a Pavarotti, will fade and falter. It cannot go on forever. But the voice of the Al‑mighty did not end, did not weaken. It remained strong throughout.
Is this all the great prophet had to teach us about the voice of G‑d? That it was a powerful baritone? That it resonated? Is the greatness of the Infinite One that he didn’t suffer from shortness of breath, that He didn’t need a few puffs of Ventolin? Is this a meaningful motivation for the Jews to accept the Torah?
Let’s look at this phrase a little more broadly. Moshe was the greatest of all prophets. He foresaw what no other prophet could see. Perhaps he wasn’t only speaking to his own generation, but to every generation of Jews in the future.
Perhaps Moshe saw his people becoming caught up in the civilization of ancient Greece, in the beauty, culture, philosophy, and art of the day. And they might question—is Torah still relevant?
Perhaps he foresaw Jews empowered by the Industrial Revolution where they might have thought Torah to be somewhat backward. Or, maybe it was during the Russian Revolution, where faith and religion were positively primitive.
Maybe Moshe saw our own generation with space shuttles and satellites, television and technology. And he saw young people questioning whether the old Torah still speaks to them.
And so Moshe tells us that the voice that thundered from Sinai was no ordinary voice. The voice that proclaimed the Ten Commandments was a voice that was not only powerful at the time, but it did not end! And it still rings out, it still resonates, and it still speaks to each of us in every generation and in every part of the world.
Revolutions may come and go, but revelation is eternal. The voice of Sinai continues to proclaim eternal truths that never become passé or irrelevant. Honor your parents, revere them, and look after them in their old age. Never abandon them to some decrepit old-age home. Live moral lives; do not tamper with the sacred fiber of family life; be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Dedicate one day every week and keep that day holy. Stop the madness. Turn your back on the rat race and rediscover your humanity and your children. Don’t be guilty of greed, envy, dishonesty, or corruption.
Are these ideas and values dated? Are these commandments tired, stale, or irrelevant? On the contrary—they speak to us now as perhaps never before. The G‑dly voice has lost none of its strength, none of its majesty. The mortal voice of man declines and fades into oblivion. Politicians and spin-doctors come and go, but the heavenly sound reverberates down the ages.
Moshe knew what he was saying and to whom he was talking: Torah is truth, and truth is forever. The voice of G‑d shall never be stilled. ϖ
Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn and was sent in 1976 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe as an emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. His sefer “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was published by Ktav and is available at Jewish book shops or online at www.ktav.com.