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Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn.

2011-10-26

Global Listening

The following, by Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla, is from a Dvar Torah was originally published as a part of the American Jewish World Service Dvar Tzedek series, and can be found at on1foot.org.

What would global listening sound like? How might we live differently in the coming year if we truly stopped in this season and listened to the stories of pain and survival around the globe that surround us each day? What if we took the time and space to listen to the voices behind the news stories when we hear reports of famine or genocide? What if we stopped on the street corner to hear how poverty and a global imbalance of wealth impact the homeless man who just asked us for spare change?

During the High Holidays, the mitzvah, the sacred activity, connected to the shofar is not to blow it as we might have expected, but "lishmoa kol shofar," literally to listen to its voice. The pattern of shofar blasts that we sound is designed to mimic human tears.

     Deep moans…tekiah.
     Broken cries…shevarim.
     Staccato sobs…teruah.
     A long bellow…tekiah gedolah.

Listening with our whole selves to the shofar crying on Rosh Hashanah teaches us how to be attentive to human stories of struggle all year round.

If we stop and listen, we might hear surprising things. On one level, the shofar sounds like tears, but it also sounds like laughter.

     Whole chuckles…tekiah.
     Broken giggles…shevarim.
     Sharp shrieks of merriment…teruah.
     A deep belly laugh…tekiah gedolah.

There are moments of surprising hope and humor in even the saddest stories. There is survival in Darfur in the midst of genocide. There is hope in Burma in the midst of rebuilding after the cyclone...

...In the coming year may we pause within the hectic rush of our lives and create the space to listen —to the voices of suffering and the voices of joy in our own families, our communities and our planet. May the words of the parshah [Parshat Ha'azinu] inspire us to "give our ears" to the earth and fill up our days and our hearts with listening and caring for each other.

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