This week’s Torah Portion, Ki Tavo, contains within it these most mystical of commands:
“Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Silence! Hear, O Israel! Today you have become the people of the Eternal your God. Listen to the voice of the Eternal your God and do God’s commandments and laws, which I command you this day. (Deuteronomy 27:9-10)
Israel is command to be silent so that we can listen to the words of God.
There is a midrash, a legend of our people, that God’s voice has spoken the Ten Commandments from the heights of Mount Sinai continually from the first moment of Creation. The miracle of the moment of receiving the Ten Commandments was not that God spoke, but that the People of Israel heard. At that moment of moments, God silenced all the noise. No bird chirped, no cow mooed, God silenced even the sounds within them, so that they could hear the words which had been waiting for them there since the beginning.
Rabbi Arthur Green once taught:
Torah is Eternal, it has existed even before the written word.
So what was Torah before there was language?
A Book filled with silence. A story waiting to be told.
We are a people who, once upon a time, wrote that story we now call Torah.
We are that people still, and with every intention and every deed, we tell that story continually, every day.