I try to really hear the voice of my child. Sometimes he has things to tell me -- about his day at preschool, about Curious George or Diego, about a favorite songs. Sometimes he has sorrows to pour forth, as when he's not allowed a snack right before dinner. Sometimes he wakes in the night with a scary dream (usually about a frog on his bed. I'm not sure why.) I try to listen to him as best I can. I want him to know that his voice matters to me; that his ideas matter to me. That he matters to me.
I try to really hear the voices of my congregants. Often they have things to tell me -- about what's happening in their lives, about their hopes and their fears, about their children or their parents. Sometimes they have sorrows to pour forth, or joys to share. Sometimes they bring budgets or board business to discuss. No matter what, I try to listen to them as best I can. I want them to know that their voices matter to me; that their ideas matter to me. That they matter to me.
I try to listen to the people I encounter every day. In person, whether at the CSA or the grocery store; online, on blogs and Twitter and Facebook. It can be easy to forget that there is a human being behind every online interaction, but of course there is; the internet is just another tool for the ordinary and extraordinary communications which mark every day of human life. Sometimes the people I meet have sorrows to pour forth. Sometimes they have joys to share. I try to listen as best I can. I want them to know that their voices matter to me; that their ideas matter to me. That they matter to me.
When I think about hearing Jewishly, I think of the shema. "Hear, O Israel; Adonai is our God; Adonai is One." (That's the first line -- the prayer continues from there, but that one sentence is the ikkar, the essence.) I've been in services where we're encouraged to replace "Israel" with our own names. Praying the words with my own name swapped in for the communal name "Israel" has been surprisingly powerful for me. Recognizing that this isn't just a generalized call for our community to hear the Oneness of all things, but a call for me, specifically, to listen to God's voice and experience unity...! Holy wow. I love that my tradition calls on me not only to listen but to hear.
During this month of Elul, what kind of hearing can I do? In listening to my child -- in listening to my congregation -- in listening to the people I meet every day -- in listening for the voice of God -- there are opportunities for teshuvah, for repentance and return. I always aspire to listen wholly...and I often fail at that aspiration. It's all too easy to be not entirely present: to my child, to my community, to the people I meet, to God. All I can do is notice when I'm not wholly listening, and take a deep breath, and strive to do better. I want to really listen when the world speaks.
Related: Kol Echad: the voice of the one in the voices of the many, July 2013.
Also worth reading: Shema: Hear! Listen! by Gloria Scheiner at The Jewish Writing Project.