Last week’s Mitzvah of the Week was Shema – Listen. Prayer books sometime translate Shema as “listen” and other times as “hear”, as if the words are interchangeable, at least in the context in this mantra.
In our culture listening and hearing can be passive. Hebrew is different. In English, listen or hear can be passive words. In Hebrew, shema is an action word, an imperative word. Shema not only includes hearing but also perceiving and taking heed of what one is hearing, doing what is asked. Perhaps a better translation would be “active listening.”
Last week our Mitzvah was to listen to the still small voice of our own souls. This week’s Mitzvah is to hear the voices of others crying out to us. Some of those voices cry silently and it is easy for us to pretend we don’t hear. Others shout and yet we still find a way to ignore them. The voices I have been hearing lately are the voices of more than 9000 people who were injured in the recent earthquake in Nepal, which left nearly 5000 people dead (at this time). I am hearing the voices of eight million souls affected by the destruction. I am hearing the voices of one million children urgently needing our help.
Who else are you hearing, crying out to you? Some, like the people of Nepal, are needing urgent financial aid. Others, perhaps closer to home, are needing words of comfort or other kinds of assistance for less devastating reasons – a sickness, a loss of a loved one, a dissolving marriage, a lost job. This week, hear those voices and be moved to make the Shema in your life an action verb rather than a passive noun.