Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shavuot and the Universal Translator

Shavuot and the Universal Translator
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. – Exd. 19:18-19

If anyone of my readers are Trekkers, you’ll recall in Star Trek the Next Generation that the communication badge worn by all Starfleet officers also serves as a universal translator. That was the shows way of explaining how they could travel to distant planets and meet alien races and yet heat and understand perfect English issue forth from their mouth when they speak. The device quickly analyzes the alien language and its speech patterns, or if it is a race they have already encountered, has such information already stored in its memory banks and thus translates what it picks up accordingly into impeccable English. This is like what happened at Sinai on Shavuot and on the Shavuot (Pentecost) in the Book of Acts.

“The voice reached each Israelite according to his or her ability to hear. The elderly heard according to their strengths, and the young heard according to their strengths, the children heard according to their strengths, the women heard according to their strengths, Moses too heard according to his strengths. For it says: ‘Moses spoke, and the Divine answered him with a voice.’” – Midrash Tanhuma, Shemot 21

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:5-11

The list of places and tongues given in the verse above in Acts is the places where the 10 tribes had been scattered in the Assyrian captivity. Up to that point, it was known where all the Tribes had been scattered (James 1:1). We also must recall that at Sinai, not just Israel was present, but the 70 nations, this 70 unique tongues where there, a representative of each nation that went out with Israel from Egypt that needed to hear GOD’s Word in their own language (Exd. 12:38).

Jill hammer in her book, “Jewish Book of Days” page 294 said this, “…Each heard the holy voice according to his or her strengths and weaknesses. One imagines Sinai as a little like a United Nations meeting, with each person receiving a simultaneous translation into the language of his or her own heart.”

So, what is the Holy One telling you, specifically you, from His Torah this Shavuot?