The Yanny/Laurel Debate and The Miracle of Shavuos

As a Jew living in the 21st Century, it’s hard to imagine that any proclamations made today outlining new Jewish laws incumbent upon us, even if uttered by the greatest gedolim of our generation or Gd him/herself, would ever be unequivocally accepted by Klal Yisroel and subsequently passed down to each new generation.

We live during a time where no singular truth is accepted by all. This refers to the truth proposed by rabbis of our generation, but also to the truth of Gd’s laws – at least in the sense that our individual interpretations of Gd’s words are what become our truth – even if the meanings we ascribe to the words of Torah aren’t universally accepted as such.

We all hear what we want to hear in 2018. Nothing could showcase this more than the current raging online debate of Yanny vs. Laurel. Some people listening to a computerized voice hear it say the name “Yanny,” while others distinctively hear the voice say “Laurel.” Each side of the spectrum is convinced that they are correct and can’t imagine that someone else could hear something that should be completely obvious (the obvious being whatever they heard).

This highlights what a miracle it was that Gd’s thunderings during Matan Torah were given and understood in every language known to the world (I believe 70 in total). Today we cannot even hear 2 words and agree, yet when Gd gave us the Torah we all heard his pronouncements with complete clarity – a feat even Google Translate has yet to accomplish.

It seems to me that one of our tasks today is to get back to that level of understanding. Not an understanding that we all necessarily agree upon – obviously the different factions of Jews walked away from Matan Torah with various interpretations of the same laws, as evidenced by the many different legitimate Jewish communities we have today.

Rather, the understanding I refer to is the common understanding that we can all be following the same Torah, yet be attuned to slightly different nuances and frequencies that are legitimately present. We can be “Yannys” or “Laurels” and still all be right. The miracle of Shavuos wasn’t just the giving of the Torah, but the giving of mutual understanding and respect.

May we merit to get back to such a place in the coming year.


4 thoughts on “The Yanny/Laurel Debate and The Miracle of Shavuos

  1. Thanks, Sharon,

    There was a contentious issue in my shul a while back and everyone was chiming in. My very wise benchmate in shul reminded me of the famous song lyrics “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest …” Unfortunately that is getting worse 😦

    Chag sameach!!


    Mark L. Trencher 860-922-8335


  2. Ah, but is it just the tolerance of different factions of Judaism or should we extend it to tolerance of all religions and beliefs?
    I love your invisible woman photo. Very clever.

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