Tidbits of Torah

The Art of Listening headshot white 2015cropped

Shabbat Parashat Vayera

November 19, 2016 – 18 Cheshvan 5777

Dear Friends,

Listening is an art! It comes more naturally to some of us than to others. But, it is an art worth developing….

Most of us are familiar with the Torah verse: “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) It is usually translated as: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” The Hebrew word “Shema” means: hear, but it also means: listen! Listen deeply. Listen with heart, with mind, with soul.

In our weekly Torah portion, when Sarah comes to Abraham all upset at the state of things in their household, God says to Abraham: “…Shema B’Kola.” In our Etz Hayim Chumash, these words are translated as: “…Do as she says”. (Genesis 21:12). The ensuing tragedy of the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael is tied to this particular way of interpreting God’s words: Shema B’Kola. Abraham understood God to be saying to him that he should follow Sarah’s verbal “instructions.” The translator who chose to translate God’s words: “Do as she says,” reflected Abraham’s understanding of God’s words.

But, the Hebrew words Shema B’kola do not necessarily mean: “Do as she says.” They could also mean: “Listen to the timbre of Sarah’s voice as she speaks.” Try to understand what emotions, what thoughts, and what circumstances lead her to say the things she is saying. Listen deeply. Listen with heart, with mind, with soul.

Although Abraham was disturbed by what he heard on the surface– instead of taking the time to unpack the situation and to understand better what was going on– he simply obeyed Sarah’s “instructions.”

When we hear people say things that make us uncomfortable, may we take the time to listen more deeply, with heart, with mind, and with soul. And may our listening lead us toward greater understanding, greater love, and toward enduring peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror