There’s nothing quite like the real thing

Thank God for Zoom, but it’s nothing quite like the real thing.

The Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Parshat Ki Tisa

An appreciation of the power of experiencing the real thing is presented to us in Parshat Ki Tisa. The Torah tells us how Moshe had received the Ten Commandments from Hashem on Mount Sinai. After being on the summit of the mountain for forty days and forty nights, Hashem dramatically said to Moshe,

“Lech red.” – “Go down. The ppl of Israel are rebelling.”

“Asu lahem eigel maseicha,’ – “They have made for themselves a molten calf. They are praying to it. They are sacrificing to it.”

Moshe came down from the mountain and saw the nation worshipping the golden calf. He was so upset and enraged that he smashed the tablets. The Midrash asks a great question: Why didn’t Moshe smash the tablets when he was on top of the mountain? After all, Hashem had already told him everything that was transpiring, and without sparing any of the details!

Seeing for yourself

The Midrash answers by saying,

“Eino domeh shmiah leriyah.” – “Hearing about something is not the same as seeing it for yourself.”

And I find that the power of this teaching is all the greater because Moshe didn’t hear about this by reading it in a book or hearing from a friend or family member – he heard from none other than Hashem Himself, and even that was not the same as being personally immersed within the experience.

During coronavirus we’re hearing a lot. And thanks to our online communications we’re certainly in touch with the world around us. We can see into spaces and rooms and we can see images of faces of friends and family in front of us – but it’s not the real thing.


When one misses something, one comes to appreciate it all the more.

Take for example the halachah on Tisha b’Av that for 25 hours we don’t greet people. I find that the absence of being able to say, “hello,” or, “good morning,” makes me appreciate that opportunity to greet people all the more.

How much more so therefore have we all, over the last year, started to appreciate the privilege – yes, privilege – of being able to socialise with others, to physically be in their presence during the last. Thank God, it won’t be too long now until the real thing will be possible.

For the rest of our lives let us therefore never take for granted that opportunity to experience the real thing – to be in the presence of others, to enjoy their company and to have an opportunity to make a deep impact.

‘Eino domeh shmiah leriyah’. Hearing about something is not the same as seeing it for oneself. And indeed, thank God for Zoom, but it’s nothing quite like the real thing.

Shabbat shalom.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Posted in Parashah


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