, Boca Raton, FL. It was published on AISH.com May 25, 2017
“Mosquito tone” is a 17 KHz sine wave that teenagers use on their cell phone to alert them when they’ve got a text message so the teachers can’t hear it. Studies say that most adults can’t hear much above the 13-14KHz range, but teenagers can. Our ability to hear high frequencies falls as we age.
I found the mosquito tone online and played it. I heard nothing but my kids in the other room started screaming, “What is that? Turn it off!”
Adults have now struck back using the teenagers’ technology against them. Inventor Howard Stapleton has created the Mosquito teen repellent (I kid you not). He says only a few people over age 30 can hear the Mosquito’s sound. Stores and parks in England and Japan have begun to use it to keep teenagers from loitering. The repellent continually plays a high frequency. Adults can’t hear it and teenagers can’t stand it.
The most seminal moment in human history occurred when God addressed millions of people at Mount Sinai in an act of supreme revelation. Indeed, this moment was unprecedented, unparalleled and unrepeated. The Torah says, “These words that God spoke to all your assembly in the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud and the thick darkness, with a great voice which was not heard again… [v’lo yasaf]” (Deut. 5:19)
The simple meaning of the words, v’lo yasaf as explained by the Ibn Ezra and other commentaries, is that the voice and experience were “not to be repeated.” This was a onetime only deal, an exceptional and transcendent moment in human history, never to be replicated.
On the one hand, the uniqueness of this event is significant and special. We eternally reflect back and recognize that the moment is inimitable and unique, distinct and singular. On the other hand, its uniqueness forces us to consider the fact that no matter how we live and whatever choices we may make we can never experience revelation like Mount Sinai again. This generates a sense of disenfranchisement and deflates our spiritual ambition. If God only spoke once and we missed it, how do we connect today? How do we access the affirmation that only God’s voice can provide as to His existence and our charge in the world?
Commentators were troubled by this dilemma and offer another layer of interpretation of the phrase v’lo yasaf. Onkelus, the famous convert who lived in the period of the Tannaim from 35 – 120, translates v’lo yasafnot as never repeated, but rather as v’lo p’sak, God’s voice never ended or ceased. The Ramban brings a few sentences as evidence that the Hebrew root – yud, samech, fey – can mean ‘never stops.’ According to this interpretation, God spoke at Sinai thousands of years ago and his voice and message continue to carry until today and beyond.
So, which is it? Does v’lo yasaf mean God’s voice never repeated or does it mean God’s voice never ceased?
I believe the answer is up to each and every one of us. We each have a critical choice to make. Do we view the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai as part of the past, a historical event and previous occurrence, or does God voice speak to us today?
Each year on Shavuot we recall the Sinai experience and challenge ourselves with the question of which interpretation best reflects our life. Are we going to choose the reading that says the voice of God is no longer heard, or are we going to continue to listen carefully for the reverberation of God’s message in our lives? Are the events of Mount Sinai representative of an ongoing, developing relationship with God, or are they an isolated event?
In truth, God’s voice is all around us. Like the mosquito tone, a frequency is playing, the only question is if we can hear it.
Each time we open a book and challenge ourselves by learning Torah, expanding and broadening our wisdom, understanding and insight, God’s voice is reverberating. Each prayer in which we are not only physically present but spiritually invested, God’s voice is reverberating. Each magnificent sunrise or sunset that we pause to take in, God’s voice is reverberating. Each act of kindness we share with others God’s voice is reverberating.
There is no doubt that God’s great and mighty voice is all around us. Shavuot demands of us to consider: are we tuned into the Sinai frequency or do we simply go through the motions, and view God’s voice as something of the past?
The choice is yours to make.