By Laura Seymour
Dear Parents and Children,
There are so many important values within our wonderful Jewish tradition and we pass these on to our children in many different ways. As we begin 2015, it is time to re-dedicate ourselves to reaching out to others — our families, friends and neighbors. We are so busy today that we have “lost time” to be with others and especially to listen to others. A study was done a few years ago that said that parents talk to children about 12 minutes per day and 7 of those minutes are used for telling them what to do. Let’s strive to have more meaningful conversations with everyone and to really listen.
Shmiat HaOzen — Attentiveness
This is a crucial Jewish value for our lives, especially with children. The Hebrew word shmiat comes from the word listen or hear, while ozen is the Hebrew for ear. Shmiat HaOzen literally means “a listening of the ear. Listening goes beyond hearing — hearing is not a virtue, but listening involves understanding, evaluating, giving consideration, obeying and accepting. All of these acts can be virtues. When God says, “Shema Yisrael — Hear, O Israel,” the hearing is not meant to be a one time thing, but the “hearing” of God’s voice is supposed to change our actions and our identity. When we listen to others, we must try to be like God: to be compassionate and to understand. There may be limits to how much we can “hear” at any particular time, and there might be limits to how much others can “hear” us. However, we must strive to strengthen our listening ear in all our relationships.
Something to Do With Our Children
Rabbi Judah ben Shalom said: If a poor person comes, and pleads before another that other does not listen to the poor one. If someone who is rich comes, the person listens to and receives the rich one at once. God does not act in such a manner. All are equal before God — women, slaves, rich and poor. (Exodus Rabbah 21:4) Why would someone listen differently to a poor or rich person? What other differences in people would cause us to listen differently?
How do you feel when someone doesn’t listen to you? Try this experiment:Get a partner and one of you should talk about something you did that day. The other person should turn away, or look somewhere else. How did that make you feel? Now show how to listen in a way that feels good.
Now, let us begin together to truly listen to others and hear what is being said – there is no more valuable gift you can give than your presence.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas.