Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Jewish Value of the Week: Listening, Shmiat HaOzen

Shmiat HaOzen literally means “a listening of the ear.” Hearing is a physical act, while listening involves involves understanding, processing, evaluating, giving consideration, heeding, obeying, accepting and concentration. To grow in wisdom and to be a friend, one must be compassionate, understanding and good. It is also important to listen to yourself and to hear your inner voice. The following poem expresses the differences between the physical act of hearing, and listening.

Listen! by Jack Riemer and Harold Kushner

Judaism begins with the commandment:
Hear, O Israel!
But what does it really mean to “hear?”
The person who attends a concert
With a mind on business,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who walks amid the songs of birds
And thinks only of what will be served for dinner,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The one who listens to the words of a friend
Or a spouse or child,
And does not catch the note of urgency:
‘Notice me, help me, care about me,”
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who listens to the news
And thinks only of how it will affect business,
Hears — but does not really hear,
The person who stifles the sound of conscience
And thinks “I have done enough already”
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who hears the Hazzan pray
And does not feel the call to join in prayer,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who listens to the rabbi’s sermon
And thinks that someone else is being addressed,
Hears — but does not really hear.
On this Shabbat, O Lord,
Sharpen our ability to hear.
May we hear the music of the world,
And the infant’s cry, and the lover’s sigh.
May we hear the call for help of the lonely soul,
And the sound of the breaking heart.
May we hear the words of our friends,
And also their unspoken pleas and dreams.
May we hear within ourselves the yearnings
That are struggling for expression.
May we hear You, O G-d.
For only if we hear You
Do we have the right to hope
That you will hear us.
Hear the prayers we offer to you this day, O G-d.
And may we hear them too.

A Story for Shabbat: Light Cargo

— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye
A terrible storm arose at sea, frightening passengers on a ship. Fearing their ship would break apart, the passengers threw their baggage overboard, hoping to lighten the load. Many were merchants who sacrificed fortunes in rugs, furnishings and silver. But even the poorest among them, a great Jewish scholar, tossed over his few possessions.
Mercifully, the boat landed on the shores of a foreign land. The passengers were cast ashore with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and had to beg for everything they needed. This continued for years, and it became clear as time passed, that the merchants were the neediest beggars. Yet the scholar, who was the poorest on the ship, prospered. What was his secret?
Like everyone else, the scholar lost his worldly possessions at sea. The scholar’s true wealth, however, was his knowledge, which weighed nothing and could never be lost.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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