Beeps, pwets and pons
I quickly fell asleep on the first morning of Shavuot. I was exhausted and exhilarated. I only wanted a few hours of sleep, but a constant and rhythmic “eep,” wouldn’t let me sleep. I first hazily thought it was an insect playing its nightly mating song, the same song I usually hear when going to sleep. I was going to sleep in the morning, so it had to be a bird, but no, it wasn’t that either. It was more of an electronic sound. The constant “eep” was driving me crazy. It wasn’t the smoke alarm signaling a low battery. It was my cell phone. I piled some pillows and blankets over it, but it seemed to increase in volume. The pillows toppled over and knocked the phone (land line) of the hook and soon the horrible ‘eep’ was in stereo. I feel asleep counting ‘eeps’ not sheep. It’s the sound of the microwave when the food is cooked. It’s the note struck by the bar code scanner as it empties your bank account. My fax machine, computer, and, even my car, all speak ‘eep.’ It’s the TSA wand reacting to all the metal in my back. Even my blood pressure seems to be measured by ‘eep!’
The short sound is so ubiquitous that I searched for the Rosseta Stone program for “eep.” They insisted that although their DVDs ‘eep,’ they do not have a special program for ‘eep.’ “We assure you, sir, that there is no language called, ‘eep!’ Are you sure you do not mean ‘Beep?’’” Fools!
I did find a book by Michele Slung, “Hear! Here! and learned that the Chinese don’t say ‘eep,’ or ‘beep,’ but ‘doo.’ It’s ‘boo’ in Japanese, ‘pon’ in Hindi, ‘moc’ in Spanish, ‘dute’ in Danish, and, ‘pwet,’ in French. This is one time I will favor the French: I am now searching for a way to program all the electronics in the house to ‘pwet’ rather than beep.
How can a sound so familiar be so effective at catching my attention and disturbing my sleep? Dissonance. I hear it because the sound is unexpected. That is a terrible shame. I have worked so hard to block out unnecessary noises that I often do not hear what I should.
I spend a good part of my day listening to questions. I wonder if I am missing their beeps, ‘pwets’, and ‘dutes.’ The most important part of a question is usually not in the words, but in the subtle beeps that ‘doo’ just under the surface. A sigh ignored may be an important ‘pon.’ A second’s hesitation can often serve as a warning ‘boo.’
There I was learning a lesson about listening to beeps after spending an entire night of intense Torah learning. Why?
Moshe would listen in to God speaking to Himself. You may think it was a soft sound, but no, it was the same powerful voice used at Sinai. (Rashi, Numbers 7:89) The first part of Rashi seems to describe a whisper, “God speaking to Himself.” Then Rashi says it was the same powerful voice God used at Sinai.
Perhaps it was a beep, a whisper. Once Moshe paid as much attention to the whispers and beeps as he did to The Voice, it was no longer a whisper. The volume increased according to the attention paid by the listener.
Yes, I, thank God, had a night of intense Torah study. The ‘eeps’ taught me that in order to maintain that intensity, I will have to practice listening to the whispers of Torah; its subtle messages. Only when I learn to listen for the beeps, will I hear the Voice of Torah.
beep. pwet. pon. moc.
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