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Speaker of the House

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The power of the word.

What is it about the spoken word that can evoke such tremendous feeling? The way it is said? The one who says it? The implications it holds for the speaker and his listeners?

What are spoken words? Nothing really, at least not in the material sense. If speech is creative, it is only in the sense that it impacts its listener. Physically, speech has no substance—all it is is a pattern of sound waves. Yet there is no mistaking the power of the word. The simple word has the power to move you, to inspire you, to utterly transform your perspective on reality.

“Let there be light.” “Let the waters gather and land emerge.” “Let the earth sprout forth vegetation.”

The Torah describes the creation of the world as a series of divine statements. If we wish to understand the nature of the created reality, the Torah is telling us, we must examine the phenomenon we call speech.

As speech, G-d’s creating words did not actually create anything of substance. All they did was change a perception, change the manner in which a preexisting reality, the Preexisting Reality, would be perceived. When G-d said “Let there be light” nothing really happened—other than the impact this had on us, the listeners, to whom it made a world of difference.

The Listener

Say something. Any word or phrase. Say it again. And again. As you repeat your words they spin into meaningless noises. They have lost their impact. Spoken words that have no listener have no impact and, by definition, no existence. But say them again, this time to someone who hasn’t heard them yet, and they will regain their meaning and impact.

If G-d speaks a world, then, by definition, someone is listening. Someone outside of Himself—“outside” in the sense that he perceives his own existence as something distinct of His, failing to comprehend that he is but the embodiment of the divine desire that he be. Someone who might consider G-d to be an idea, something to think about, or a force to be reckoned with. Or who might question His existence altogether.

Someone who hears G-d’s speech of a world. Man.

The Language

You hear someone speak. He is saying something very powerful. Something with the ability to enlighten you, to provoke you, to open new vistas before you. You realize as much from the tone and timbre of his words. But you are unmoved. He is speaking Chinese.

For the word to impact the listener, the listener must know the language.

To appreciate the significance of the divine speech we call universe, we must first acquire the language in which it was spoken. “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world.”[6] You can spend a fruitful lifetime just listening to the tone and timbre of the galaxies and quarks He articulated. But if you sense a significance to the grandeur of the stars, if you sense the whisperings of nature to be a communication, look to the Torah, the dictionary of creation. G-d gave us the Torah in order to teach us the language of creation, to enable us to comprehend His communication to us—and to communicate, in turn, with Him.

The Conversation

A conversation may sometimes serve no purpose other than to convey the information contained in its words. Directions to the bank, the price of the dress in the window. But this is speech at its shallowest. Meaningful speech is the endeavor to communicate, to reveal oneself to another.

G-d spoke to us so that we may understand Him. Not just the world He said, but Him, its speaker. By mastering the language of Torah, we not only gain insight into the significance of the created existence—we also enter into a heart-to-heart conversation with its author and orator.

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