Oft times I think I hear long-gone voices, or at least the echoes of them. Yes, I know, this confession will probably have you peg me as definitively nuts. But, let me explain.
When I was a teen, one horrific evening, blood-curdling yells sounded out of the top of the wilderness hillock near our house. The sheer agony in the cry was apparent, and it was followed by hoarse sobs. En masse my family ran toward the sound, while one of us dialed 911. We headed here and there, yelling, “We’re coming – let us know where you are.” The cries continued, and though we searched hither and thither, we couldn’t find the person (who from the crescendo and anguish sounded like he or she was being murdered). We ran back into our house to speak to the police, and they said they got multiple calls of these screams, but they couldn’t pinpoint where it was. The screams continued, long, drawn-out, the kind of yells that raised your hair on end and made you sob along. We were all now openly crying, as we again tried searching the hillock. We went through every bit of ground, but mysteriously, though we heard the cries, no victim was found.
Then the State Police arrived. It took a bit of time, but it finally emerged that a hunter had wounded a bear on a mountain opposite our hillock and had left the bear in its agony. The cries of the bear came booming from the mountain and hit our wooded hillock, sending off the echo of the screams into our ears. We were only hearing the echoes of the actual screams of agony. Eventually we heard the sharp crack of a gun and there was blessed silence as the bear was put out of its misery. A mere echo, but one that, if ever I recall those screams, can still bring tears to my eyes in its pain-filled tones.
This morning I was up really early again, heading off to do what needs to be done. And as I did so, I was smiling, for in my ears I was hearing the echoes of a long-ago tune. In ye’olde shtetel-land, not many folks had alarm clocks. There was a person designated to be the “vekker”, the awakener. It was a dual message his – one was to wake up physically and his other message was to wake up spiritually. He would go through the town, singing out in baritone, “vekk oif, vekk oif, tzum avodas ha’Boray [wake up, wake up, to the work of The Creator].” Some folks think me old, but I’m not that old to be able to claim I heard that original song sung. My father had shared it with us, and many a morning he would chant it to us. We got the echoes of a bygone time through my father’s voice, so much so that on an early morning I hear that music, the music of spiritual awakening, even as there is silence around me.
We are told “kol yom v’yom” every day, “bas kol yotzay” a Heavenly Voice proclaims, “oy lanoo” woe is us for the shaming of the Torah. There are other voices, we are told, that emanate from various hotspots in the world. But does anyone hear those voices? Sound is a wave. Most people don’t realize that. You don’t see it, so you think it doesn’t exist. But everything uttered, every noise made, creates a wave that then goes wafting off, to either be absorbed or to be bounced around from crag, to hill to mountain and onwards.
Can we amplify the mountains’ messages? Can we provide the echo to those greater than us? And can we strain our ears to catch the song of yesteryear?