Divine Megaphone (Devarim)
The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself. -Bernard Baruch
Moses, since the Exodus from Egypt, through the wandering in the desert for forty years and their final encampment by the eastern banks of the Jordan River, is constantly addressing the people of Israel. We know that the people of Israel had over 600,000 men of military age and likely comprised a total population of a few million people.
A question I always had was, how did Moses physically communicate with the entire nation at once? Even if a few million people squeezed into as tight an area as possible, we would be talking about an area that would comprise thousands upon thousands of acres. Remember, we are talking about a time before any electronic voice amplification technology existed. Was there some rudimentary Egyptian bullhorn used to address large crowds? Was there some forgotten Mesopotamian technology that amplified voices?
Before the age of electricity, it was presumed that a crowd of 5,000 was a natural limit that could be addressed, not including a stadium or some other enclosed and acoustically enhanced location. Benjamin Franklin tested a particularly powerful preacher, George Whitefield, who successfully addressed a crowd of 30,000 people in Philadelphia. Whitefield spoke from the top of the Court House steps on Market Street. Franklin was able to hear him up until about Front Street, half a mile away, at which point he could no longer hear him. The question still remains, how did Moses address a crowd that was one hundred times larger, over presumably a much larger area?
The Bat Ayin on Deuteronomy 1:1 wonders the same thing. The verse states that Moses addressed ALL of Israel. So how did he accomplish such a herculean task? How did he address millions of people at once? The Bat Ayin answers that God was Moses’ megaphone. God consistently and supernaturally amplified Moses’ voice whenever he wanted to address all of Israel. That in a sense, it was really some aspect of God’s voice that was coming out of Moses’ throat. Not only was Moses speaking the words that God put into his brain, but God was using Moses’ mouth and raising the reach and volume to divine levels. Moses’ attachment to God was so strong that he became a full and complete conduit to transmit God’s words to Israel. Moses faithfully transmitted both the words and the voice of God.
May we always appreciate the divine nature of the Torah that’s in our hands.
To Herzog’s Yemei Iyun (Bible Study Days) in Alon Shvut. It constantly amazes me how so much relevant and new material can be gleaned from something so old.