The Voice

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash
The Book of Leviticus opens with G-d calling to Moses, thus giving this third book of the Torah its name in Hebrew, “Vayikra”. Have you ever wondered what G-d’s voice sounds like? At Mount Sinai G-d’s voice appears to be overwhelming and frightening. The people who hear it beg Moses to speak to G-d in their stead. The Divine voice frightens them when G-d speaks to them. On the other hand, the prophet Elijah has a different experience when G-d speaks to him.

G-d tells the Prophet Elijah to stand on the mountain and wait for G-d to pass by:

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, …… but the G-d was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the G-d was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the G-d was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still small voice……Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” In this story, G-d’s voice comes in a gentle whisper. (New International Version translation)

Samuel the prophet has a different experience hearing the voice of G-d. When he was a young boy his mother, Hannah, sent him to live with the aged priest, Eli. One night Samuel awoke to a voice calling him. He went to Eli and asked him what he wanted. Eli said he did not call him and told him to go back to sleep. This happened a second time. Again, Eli told him he had not called. When it happened a third time, Eli told him it must be the voice of G-d, and he should listen carefully. And indeed, it was. In this story, the voice of G-d sounds very much like the voice of any human being.

What seems clear is that G-d’s voice changes depending on who is listening. To the people of Israel standing at Sinai the voice was a roar; to Elijah a whisper, to Samuel, the voice of his teacher. Recently, researchers have been examining changes in the human voice. Dr. Yoram Levanon, a leading Israeli scientist, discovered that researchers can identify the onset of some diseases just by monitoring the change in a person’s voice. At first, they were able to diagnose Parkinson’s disease before the appearance of any other symptoms. They then found that they could identify coronary artery disease just by the sound of someone’s voice. Imagine being able to call an emergency room if you were experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath, and be told, just by analyzing your voice, whether you were having a heart attack or simply experiencing anxiety!

On December 11 of last year Dr. Levanon announced that his company, Vocalis Health, would focus on developing ways to diagnose coronary and respiratory diseases through vocal analysis. They are now turning their focus on a particular respiratory disease — trying to identify people infected by Covid19 by identifying vocal biomarkers, vocal signatures beyond the capacity of the human ear but detectable through artificial intelligence. The hope is that early symptom detection and monitoring at home could be done through a smart phone. If it can be done, it would be an ideal way to do the millions of tests necessary to get us back on the road to normality.

What is more, each one of us can participate in this research by going to, filling out a health questionnaire and recording our voice.

That is the message of hope that I want to leave you with today. There are some very smart and dedicated scientists out there who are tenaciously working on developing ways that human beings worldwide can return to normal in a safe and responsible way. Curious to think that we are just beginning to discover what the human voice might express without our knowledge. Our ancestors discovered the sublime wisdom in the voice of G-d; we are uncovering the hidden secrets of the voice of humankind.

Shabbat Shalom