“According to people who study bioacoustics – or natural sounds – it is becoming increasingly difficult to find undisturbed natural habitats. When Bernie Krause first started recording nature sounds in 1968 for films and television, it took him 15 hours of recording time to glean one hour of pristine sound.
“Now it takes me 2,000 hours in North America to get one hour of usable material,” says Krause. (Source: ABC News)
The sages taught that, “Each and every day the Divine Voice issues (Torah) from Sinai.” Eliyahu KiTov taught that the noise, static, and commotion of this world drown out our ability to hear the divine voice, and that each “act of conscious focus is a miniature Sinai that can now be in every place. God is the One who enables us to hear what is being spoken at the most primary levels of reality.”
Bernie Krause’s story always reminds me of a famous parable in the Talmud (Berachot 58) and the corresponding Bible text in 1 Kings 19.
Parable of the Blind Man’s Insight
On a certain day, the king of Israel was expected to travel through the village, and all the villagers gathered to see him go by. Although blind, Rabbi Sheshet joined the others as they waited patiently for the king’s arrival.
Knowing that the great rabbi was blind, a cynic said, “People take whole pitchers to the river to fetch water, but of what use is it to take a broken pitcher to the river?” The blind rabbi understood what the man’s negative remark really meant: what’s the point of a blind person waiting to see the king?
Rabbi Sheshet answered, “Foolish man! I will demonstrate to you that not only will I know when the king arrives, but I am capable of understanding what is happening better than you who have vision.”
When a legion of soldiers appeared, the cynic joined the crowd in shouting, “The king is coming!”
“No, he isn’t,” the blind rabbi said. And, as predicted, the legion passed by without the king.
A second legion marched down the road toward the center of the village and again the cynic and the crowd shouted, “The King is coming!”
Again, the rabbi said the king was not coming, and once more that turned out to be true.
A third legion marched by, and this time the crowd fell silent. But Rabbi Sheshet exclaimed, “Now the king is coming!”
When he saw the king, the puzzled cynic asked, “How were you able to tell?”
The rabbi answered, “We learn from scripture that once, long ago, Israel waited for God to pass by. When a powerful wind blew through the mountains, even giant rocks were shattered to small stones, but the Lord was still not in the wind. Then after the wind, an earthquake came. But God was not in the earthquake. Then there came a fire, but the heavenly Sovereign was not in the fire. “
“After the fire,” the rabbi continued, “a still, small voice was heard, and God was found in that hush.
It was the hush of today’s crowd that informed me that the king was coming.”
It is always helpful for me to remind myself that God is in the silence, and I need to set aside time daily for meditation and silence.