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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Listen Up (liftingly)

708
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In between the pronouncements of general warnings to Bnei Yisrael to keep certain mitzvot and the threat of specific curses if they do not keep the mitzvot, our parasha promises Bnei Yisrael success if they follow Hashem’s expectations. "If you will indeed listen to the voice (kol) of Hashem to observe to perform all of the commandments that I am commanding today, Hashem your G-d will place you supreme above all of the nations of the land. All of these blessings will come upon you and reach you if you listen to the kol of Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 28:1-2). What is meant by Hashem’s kol, and why is listening to it mentioned twice, once before the promise of blessing and once after?
One can suggest that the voice just refers to the content of Hashem’s commandments. However, the midrash (Devarim Rabba 7:1) hints at a different idea: "Whoever listens to the kol of Torah in this world will merit to hear that kol of rejoicing and happiness, of groom and bride (Yirmiyah 33)." Our pasuk is brought as confirmation of this idea. The happy kol we are promised is not referring to following the content of the happiness but of experiencing the sound and the mood that accompany good times. It is also noteworthy that the midrash does not talk about the kol of Hashem but the kol of Torah. Granted, the Torah is Divine in origin and thus the content of the Torah is the content of Hashem’s Will. However, when focusing on the experience, not the content, the kol of the Torah has a somewhat different application. Notice also that Moshe stresses that which the people are being commanded "today," forty years after many of them had actually heard the voice of Hashem when He addressed them at Sinai.
These observations add weight to the Me’am Lo’ez’s (Ki Tavo 18) thesis that the midrash’s understanding of the p’sukim refers to one who listens to Torah without comprehending what he hears. The experience of just listening to the sound of Torah study creates an atmosphere that influences a person and inspires him to strive for improved observance. This idea also connects the passage in the midrash to the previous one: "Whoever enters synagogues and study halls in this world will merit to enter synagogues and study halls in the world to come." The term of entering these places seems strange, as the point should be to engage in meaningful prayer and study. This source too stresses putting oneself in the uplifting atmosphere and meriting that blessed experience in the future.
An uplifting mood and atmosphere is of limited value if it does not lead to a fulfillment of "to observe to perform all of the commandments." However, for many people the key ingredient in reaching that level of observance is not the absorption of intellectual material but connecting oneself to settings where he can feel the sanctity of the Torah that Hashem kindly gave us.
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