13 October 2016
This week’s parasha, Haazinu – “give ear” – frames a powerful scene, during which Moses makes his final speech to the Israelites. He passionately proclaims, “Give ear, O heavens, let me speak. Let the earth hear the words I utter! May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass….
Moses uses the metaphor of rain and dew to invoke the power of God’s words. As water is precious and life-giving, especially in the desert, so is the Torah critical to our survival regardless of where we live. Moses also asks that heaven, earth and the Israelites “hear” his final words. The ability to hear sounds does not automatically translate to being able to actually hear what others are saying. To do so requires listening, a skill that is developed over time, and often after many mistakes. In the hit play Hamilton, Aaron Burr advises young Hamilton to “talk less.” Indeed, when we listen more, we tend to speak less. For some, that’s a good thing, as the expression goes, “A tongue has no bones, but can still break a heart.”
Hearing and listening are not the same. On Yom Kippur, we were offered a final opportunity (for this year) to reaffirm our willingness to turn – to do teshuvah – toward better behavior to others. Perhaps the best place to start is by listening – really listening – to our loved ones, friends and colleagues.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sukkot Sameach.