Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on July 29, 2021 (5781) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And it will be, because you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform, that HASHEM, your G-d, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. (Devarim 7:12)

And it will be, if you hearken to My commandments that I command you this day to love HASHEM, your G-d, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, (Devarim 11:13)

And it will be, if you hearken: Heb. וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ literally, And it will be, if hearkening you will hearken. If you hearken to the old [i.e., if you study what you have already learned], you will hearken to the new [i.e., you will have a new and deeper understanding]. – Rashi

I don’t know what “hearken” and “heed” mean. They are not words that we use often these days. That’s what happens when we study Torah translated to a different language. There is something always lost in the translation. “Hearken” and “heed” are really not bad substitutes for “SHEMA” – Listen! One verse literally reads, “V’Haya Eikev Tishmaoon” “if you will listen”. Eikev literally means heal and “V’Haya”, our sages tell us, always introduces good news. Good Things are coming because of this type of listening. Also, we have “V’Haya Im Shamoah Tishu… “If you will listen–listen to My Commandment”. More good news is promised for that double form of listening. Rashi explains that if you listen to the old you will be able to listen to and learn the new. Somehow the search for new is dependent on success in reception of the old. In any case listening seems to be the master key to all the promises. Let’s explore how it works.

Everything in life filters down through 1) Thought 2) Speech 3) and Action. One of my teachers told us that this is true as well in each domain. In the arena of thought, for example, there is the “thought of thought” and then there is the “speech of thought” and then the “action of thought”. This has implications in the world of listening. There are many levels to listening. Listening is an art and like any art form there is a science to it as well.

There is a way of listening whereby one hears the words that are being delivered but they remain in the realm of the “thought of thought”. The words are all understood but they are remote, abstract, like a stone skipping over the surface of a pond but they do not penetrate the listener.

The apocryphal story is told that Mrs. Einstein was asked once if she understands what her husband is speaking about. Her reply was, “Every word! It’s just the sentences I am having trouble with!” It’s possible to hear every word and not understand and even to understand but still remain unaffected.

There is another level in listening whereby one cogitates on the words. He is digesting what is being said. This sparks an inner dialogue. Now in the realm of the “speech of thought” a bridge is being built between the mind and the heart. The listener begins to feel the message and empathize with the speaker. Their worlds are slowly merging and readying to become one. From being two separate circles, they are now touching and overlapping like a Venn diagram.

The next level of listening is where the message is validated inwardly, accepted, embraced, and even celebrated. The listener is enveloped by the message. The circle of the listener is surrounded by the size of the message.

Sometimes we sip an idea thinking we are larger than it but like the ocean it then swallows us and we are now swimming and bathing in its enormity.

From the heart it has traveled all the way down to the bottom of the foot. The heel is the darkest and most unfeeling part of our anatomy, yet it too is affected by message. That’s major!

This now is the realm of the “action of thought”. Here decisions are made, life changing decisions, and commitments. Now maybe we can understand the introductory words,”V’Haya Eikev Tishmoon” – If you will listen with the heel of your foot then you will be spurred by and inspired into action and that is the prelude to all that is good!