by Rabbi Judy Weiss
Malkut: majestic dignity and unity of all with loyalty
Talmud Sotah 30b: How did all Israel know the words to the song?
When the Israelites ascended from the Red Sea, they desired to sing a song (Exodus 15:1). How did they sing it? Like an adult who reads the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) and they respond with the leading word, “Halleujah”. Moses sang, “I will sing to the Lord,” and they answered, “I will sing to the Lord.” Moses sang, “For He triumphed gloriously,” and they sang in response, “I will sing to the Lord.”
Alternatively, it was like a child who reads the Hallel, and they repeat after him all he says. Moses sang, “I will sing to the Lord,” and they answered, “I will sing to the Lord.” Moses sang, “For He triumphed gloriously,” and they sang, “For He triumphed gloriously.”
Or it was like a schoolteacher who recites the Shema prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). He begins first and they sing it along with him (instinctively catching on).
Question: The event just happened. If they sang a song of spontaneous joy and gratitude for an event that had just happened, how did they all know the words? Three answers are given. Which answer involves pure repetition of all of Moses’ song? Which is responsive? Which is magical? Which do you think would express the most dignity and unity of spirit?
Climate: Scientists have a hard time talking to the general public about their climate change research results, and the public has a hard time hearing and repeating the information accurately. Part of the problem is that technical scientific terms carry nuances that the press and the public misunderstand.
For example, scientists speak about increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the EPA wants to regulate it as a pollutant. Next thing you know people say silly things like “carbon dioxide in the atmosphere isn’t pollution, it is natural.” Or they say, “We all produce carbon dioxide when we exhale.” These undignified statements don’t approach scientists with the respect, trust and loyalty we owe them.
One thing these statements misunderstand is that when scientists measure atmospheric CO2, they can also tell the origins of the CO2. Carbon dioxide molecules that come from the burning of fossil fuels are heavier than naturally occurring CO2.
In an attempt to improve communication of scientific climate change conclusions to the public, US National Academy of Sciences and their British counterpart have published a brief guide to climate change. Read their guide.
Action: Watch an episode of Numb3rs titled “Chinese Box” (season 4, episode 10) in which the mathematician Charlie knows something as certainly as he can know it, and knows that however he tries to explain it to the FBI, his words will fail to convey the truth of what he knows.
Action: Go to a climate change rally and notice different types of chants song at the rally to get attention and boost community spirit. Which are responsive, which repeat the leader’s words, and which chants are sung in unison? Do they all have the same feel for you?