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Listen up.

I went to a concert on the beach tonight, and a woman was singing in a plaintive voice “I’m scared!…” and she sang about being stronger after a Hurricane took her house. I listened to the music and the words. I listened. I listened to the surf and the gulls, the boat horn,  the crinkling of the chips, the chatter of folks nearby, cheers from the volleyball game. What should I listen too in the cacophony?   Some lyrics give insight from the chorus of Listen Close, song 18 in the jukebox at

Listen Close to the whispers,
they will help you to remember
who you are and who you came here to be.
Listen close and you will hear Me,
in your heart I’m always with you;
In the silence I’m the only voice you hear.                     Todd Herzog

This weeks parashah contains six of the most powerful words, and commands us to Listen! In Hebrew Shema Yisrael, YHVH Elohenu YHVH Echad. My own take on these words: “Listen up, you God-wrestlers, the creative Power of the universe,  is ours, and is Unity.”
This all important six word statement is shouted (perhaps) by Moses to the Israelites (translation: God-wrestlers) following the receiving of the Ten Commandments.  in Deuteronomy. What is your take on these six words? This prayer is in every service, in Mezuzot, is the first learned, the last uttered. Unity/Oneness is elusive, yet as real a part of our universe as separation and divisiveness. In one of the most profound connections, the very next statement is “V’ahavta” You shall love God, with all your heart, and all your soul and all your all. Easier to say than do. Do we ever do something with all we’ve got? And how to love God? By loving life? By loving others? Kindness, connecting, loving all build unity. Perhaps it’s listening that makes unity and loving possible. Unity by parts interacting, more than the sum of its parts.  You and I are organisms, unified mixtures of interacting parts, as are our cells, our families, our communities… Listen and you will hear the web of connections singing with the music of the spheres.
Todd’s Lyrics excerpted above are from a song about personal change and transformation. But I like it before reciting the Shema. Listen to your heart and the melodies and harmonies and rhythms, and the silken web of connections, listen in order to love.

A story. There once was a wise old king of a small land by the sea, beloved by the people of the realm. When there was thirst, the king’s scouts raced to tell of the news, and, at once, irrigation ditches were built. When there was hunger, emergency grain was delivered as fast as the horses could carry them. When there was sadness, the King mourned too. Any commoner could wait at court and be heard. But, alas, the wise old King died, and his son, the Prince who became king did not honor his father’s ways. When there was famine, the Prince declared “I have plenty to eat, why should I care about commoners starving?” Countered his advisors, “Your father always…” “I am not he! ” the Prince interrupted, “I am too busy with important matters of state to worry about peasants!” he bellowed. And when there was thirst, he was similarly unmoved. He had little time to listen to mere commoners. The folk of the realm became distressed. The Prince’s advisers were petitioned ceaselessly. Finally one adviser, Menachem, had an idea. Menachem approached the Prince with a wonderful idea of a relaxing day at sea on his boat. “Splendid,” said the Prince, “I can survey my coast”.

While out at sea, Menachem suddenly took out a drill and began turning the handle, carving a hole in the bottom of the craft. “What are you doing!?” cried the Prince. “Don’t you know that the boat will sink if you drill a hole in the bottom!? “We’ll both drown!” he exclaimed.  “Don’t be rediculous,” Menachem replied, “I’m only drilling on my side of the boat.”  “But we’re on this boat together, both of us will perish!” shouted the Prince.  Menachem stopped drilling. “As all of us, your common or royal,  are in this together, we cannot survive if others we depend upon suffer and perish. Now, unless you promise to mend your uncaring ways, I will resume drilling.” Menachem whispered, and picked up his drill.  Suddenly, the Prince’s ears and eyes were opened, and he understood. “Thank you, my friend, I’ve been a fool. My father was right, and I will rule like he did.”  From then on, he listened when even peasants approached the throne, and sent scouts out to make sure all were cared for. We’re all in this boat together!

(Menachem means comforter, and this is Shabbat Nachamu, from the same root, and from the haftarah reading “Be comforted, my people”)


Comments on: "Listen up." (2)

  1. Steve Kessler said:

    Our rabbi said you could interpret Shema as meaning “awaken”. This made me think of the Buddha, who said the truth he came to understand is that we are all sleepwalking and called on his followers to awaken. Perhaps in our sleep we dream that all is separate, but upon awakening we can see and experience that all is One!

  2. Beautifully said! Separation and unity simultaneously, a mystery

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