Friday, May 25, 2012

On singing frogs and the Revelation at Sinai

Can you find the frog in this picture? 

Click photo to enlarge
Actually, finding it in the wild was whole lot harder!  With all the rain we have had this week, the frogs are singing loud and clear, but rarely do you actually see one of these little fellows, commonly known around here as "spring peepers."  Only about an inch long and leaf green, they blend in perfectly.  I spotted this one by accident while checking on some potted Amaryllis plants I had set out for the summer.  Only by the slimmest chance did I happen to see this little fellow hiding among the leaves. 

In addition to hopping into in my garden, frogs also appear in Jewish folklore.  There is a story in Perek Shirah, the classical Jewish text about how everything is praising God, which goes like this:

The Sages said concerning King David that when he completed the Psalms, he became proud.  He said before the Holy One, Blessed be He, "Is there any creature You have created in Your World that says more songs and praises than I?" 

At that moment, a frog happened across David's path, and it said to him,  "David! Do not become proud, for I recite more songs and praises than you do.  Furthermore, every song I say contains three thousand parables, as it says, 'And he spoke three thousand parables, and his songs were one thousand and five' (I Kings 5:12)."

It must have been very humbling for David, the Sweet Singer of Psalms, to be outclassed by a frog.  But anyone who has ever heard a spring chorus of singing frogs can see that this is true.  David certainly did not sing constantly all night, every night, like the frogs do!

On the other hand, when the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, the Midrash (Exodus Rabba 24:9) tells us, there was absolute silence:

Rabbi Abbahu said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan:  When the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave the Torah, not a bird cried out, not a fowl flew, not an ox bellowed, the angels did not fly, the seraphim did not say Holy, Holy, Holy, the sea did not stir, the human creatures did not speak, but the world was still and silent.  Then the Voice went forth: "I am the Lord Thy God" (Exodus 20:2)

The purpose of this silence was so that the people gathered at the foot of Sinai would not mistake some animal sound for the Voice of God and be misled into worshipping nature.  We need only look at the plethora of animal gods that have been worshipped throughout history to see how easy this is to do.  Animals are wonderful creations, as are plants, rocks, oceans and deserts -- but they are not deities to be worshipped.  The One God of Sinai is beyond all physical forms, all earthly sounds -- and only in silence can you really hear God's Voice. 

This is why, when Elijah went to the cave to meditate (I Kings 19:11-13),  he learned that God is not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire.  These are powerful natural phenomena, they can inspire awe or terror -- in fact, most of our natural disasters come, in one way or another, from earth, wind, or fire.  But they are not the voices of gods.   The true God speaks to our hearts and minds from the Primal Silence.


Marcia said...

Thank you for the inspiration, peace & hope I just felt on reading of "singing frogs and the Revelation at Sinai."

Rooster613 said...

You are welcome --thank you for visitng my blog :)