Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A Time to Listen

The searing images of America burning will be ingrained into the heart and souls of Americans for a long time. Pain and anger were seen and felt in many corners of the country after the tragic death of George Floyd. We need to send our deepest condolences and empathy to the African American Community. (I think this is obvious, but this does not in any way condone violence or looting as a reaction) One of the fundamental values in Judaism is that all people are created in the image of G-d. This value is the bedrock of the Torah as our Sages have taught us. Unfortunately, we have seen an increasingly polarized society that is increasingly fractured on many different levels. The divisiveness that is so raw is not limited to the events of this past week. Recently, there has been great discord on the appropriate response to the coronavirus on both the macro and micro levels in society. There are so many disagreements about how and when to reopen organizations that various governments, cultures, and communities have become fractured in this process. Not to mention the political divide in which people that support different candidates or political parties frequently view people of opposing views with disdain.

The first step towards reconciliation or unity is to listen to one another. If we can’t listen to each other, then we become further alienated from one another. The Vilna Gaon teaches that there are three levels of listening. The most basic level is simply to listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting. Not thinking of what your potential response is going to be, but rather listening intently to the individual speaking. The next level is understanding. This includes any follow-up questions that would enhance an understanding of the different viewpoints. Finally, it is important to accept what the person is saying. Acceptance does not mean to agree with the person, but instead, accepting the opinion that he is communicating is his reality. It would be most helpful to internalize the wisdom of the Vilna Gaon whenever having a conversation with a person that you disagree with on a controversial issue.

Arguably, the most important declaration of faith in Judaism is the Shema. The definition of Shema is to hear. It is translated is Hear O’ Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One. The underlying understanding is that Israel as a nation should hear this theology. There is another idea that before accepting G-d as the Almighty, we must listen to each other and come together. It is quite compelling to note that before declaring that G-d is One, we are called upon to listen and hear each other. In a world that is rocked by mistrust and division, the first step to reconciliation and healing is learning how to listen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Life is Complicated

In an increasingly polarized world, there is an expectation in many forums and discussions to respond to complex and nuanced issues in a bin...