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Shir ha-Shirim XIII: Part Three: Sefirah 12

Another explanation; “Lest you forget the things (Deuteronomy 4:9),” Israel heard the first and the second of the Ten Statements from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed is He. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: The reason of the Rabbis, who say that Israel heard all the Ten Statements directly from God, is because after all the Statements it is written, “You speak with us, and we will hear (Exodus 20:16).” And how does Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi explain this? He differs from them in holding that chronological order is not strictly observed in the Torah. But even so, may not the words, “You speak with us, and we will hear,” have been spoken after just two or three Statements? Rabbi Azariah and Rabbi Yehudah ben Simón followed the view of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. They said: It is written, “Moses commanded us a law (Deuteronomy 33:4).” The whole Torah contains 613 precepts. The numerical value of “Torah” is 611, and these Moses commanded us. But, “I am,” and, “You shall not have,” we heard not from the mouth of Moses but from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed is He. In this way, “He kissed me with the kisses of His mouth.” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.2:2, Part Three)


It seems to me that the debate is focused on the verse, “You speak with us, and we will hear.” Is it conceivable that Israel would have interrupted these “Kisses” to say to God that the very phrase, “We will hear,” that they used at the highest point of Sinai, they will now use for Moshe and not God?

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is telling us that they experienced such intimacy with the “Kisses” of the first two Statements that they felt safe enough to say to God, “This is too intense.” Rabbi Yehoshua understands the “Kisses” as providing the security of intimacy. The people were telling God that, “We will continue to hear You through the mouth of Moshe.”

This is how we must study the Torah taught to us by Moshe: we must listen to his voice as if we were hearing God’s. The intimacy of Sinai continues.

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