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“God’s Voice,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

February 2, 2024 | 23 Sh’vat 5784

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

God has no body, yet Torah speaks of God’s anger with God’s nose flaring. There is no physicality, yet we imagine God reaching out with a mighty hand to free us from slavery or whose finger etched the commandments into the stone tablets. The Holy One of Blessing has the ability to embrace us with loving arms into eternity, so says our liturgy.

When the people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai with their senses awakened by the smoke, thunder, lightning, blasts of the shofar and the mountain trembling before them, they still could not see, hear, feel, taste, or smell the Holy One of Blessing from whom revelation would come.

And yet, the Torah, from this week’s portion, informs us (Exodus 19:19) Moses spoke and God responded with a voice v’kol בקול. Here again, we find the use of the human body applied to a non-embodied God. What should we make of this?

I once heard Rabbi Harold Kushner, of blessed memory, describe what happened at Mt. Sinai when God spoke the words of the Ten commandments.

There was silence.
Yet, this did not mean that there was nothing or no thing that occurred. The silence created a space for the void to be filled in by how we would and could receive Torah.

The Midrash helps us understand what he meant with this image of silence.

Rabbi Yochanan said: When God’s voice came forth at Mount Sinai, it divided itself into the seventy human languages, so that the whole world might understand it.

Rabbi Tanchuma said: All at Mount Sinai—old and young—heard the voice of God according to their ability to understand.

Moses, too, understood only according to his capacity, as it is said in Exodus 19:19
Moses spoke, and God answered him with a voice. With a voice that Moses could hear.

That voice is a channel by which each of us has the potential to comprehend. It was meant to be offered in the most accessible way. It is a Torah of truth, that revealed facts of existence: humility, relationship, life, holiness, compassion, community and so much more.

We are the ones who use our voices to take the sacred words and find meaning in depth of layers of understanding, available to each one of us. Holy words are all around us. How will we take hold of them, speak them, and allow them to inspire us?

God believes in our capacity to take hold of Torah. With our hands, our hearts, our minds, and even with our whole body.

I continue to value the many comments you exchange with me through these Shabbat Awakenings.  Share with me what you think here. Your email goes directly to me!


  • We come together as a community to celebrate Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. onsite or on ZoomFacebook Live, or our websiteShabbat Mishpachah gathers at 5:15 p.m. for dinner before the service.
  • Torah Study gathers onsite or online at 9:00 a.m. beginning with a short Shabbat service and Torah reading followed by an engaging study and conversation. All levels and abilities are welcomed!
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with a lay-led Havdalah on Zoom at 8:00 p.m.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Elaine Zecher