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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Ha’azinu – How do we listen to each other?

Posted by rabbiart on September 25, 2009

This year on Shabbat Shuvah we read one of the most dramatic and literary parshiot in the Torah – Ha’azinu. Living in the age of spin as we do, the text of the parshah, especially its opening call, is especially relevant and compelling.

Moshe, nearing the end of his life, has been embroiled in the politics of wandering for forty years.  Although the Torah only describes the beginning and end of this journey, we can be sure that the behavior demonstrated by the stories we have is continuous throughout the journey.  Our ancestors had nothing on the political complainers of the current time.  Everything was questioned, everything was argued. Leaders were under constant challenge from those with their own agendas.

What comes first?  Speaking or listening? We cannot speak if no one will listen. Even the greatest teacher and prophet, the only one ever to speak with HaShem face-to-face, needs a listening ear and an open heart. Otherwise, the falling rain and the gentle showers might as well be falling on to parched ground that cannot hold it.

Read the text carefully, especially the opening verse.  Moshe asks for the heavens to listen, and then he will speak.  He calls on the earth to hear, and then his speech will be more than just mere lips flapping.

Is there a lesson in this beautiful poem and appropriately short parshah? Do the heavens and skies listen? Aren’t they nothing more than inanimate objects? Well… yes, maybe and maybe not.  What we can learn is that when heaven and earth “listen”, they aren’t busy preparing a response that will underscore their own point of view.  In that sense, they are better listeners than human beings.

What we could learn from this parshah is the value of really listening, of putting aside our own agendas and debate points.  Of the five senses, listening/hearing is the most passive, but also the most active.  To see you must look. To taste you must eat. To smell you must inhale. To touch you must…touch.  To hear you need do nothing, but to listen you must really do a lot.  Above all, you must turn off your arguing mind and open your listening heart.

As one of our text says, “open our hearts, so that we might get wisdom.”

This Shabbat Shuvah (repenting, returning, changing) – in the interim of the new year and the day of at-one-ment, let us learn to be like shamayim and aretz and listen to each other with perfect attention.

Shabbat Shalom

Hatimah Tovah


One Response to “Ha’azinu – How do we listen to each other?”

  1. Shirley Gould said

    Insightful;beautiful. Makes me remember the time I consulted a psychiatrist, who asked me to tell him my most profound wish. Immediately I replied, “I want someone to listen to me.”

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