The sound of holiness

Ki Tavo (When You Come) D’Varim (Deut.) 26:1-29:8

Haftorah Readings: Isaiah (Yesh’yahu) 60:1-22

This Shabbat marks exactly one week until Rosh Hashana, which begins next Friday evening at sundown. Our portion today begins with Moshe instructing the people concerning the bringing of first fruits to the temple in Jerusalem. As you may remember, G-d’s calendar begins with Passover, next comes First Fruits, followed by Rosh Hashana next week, then Yom Kippur and ending with Sukkot. I pray all of you take the time to study these coming holidays and see how they apply to your daily life and how they give an order to the year every year. Take the time to listen to what the Father is saying to each of you concerning these holidays. 


This brings me to my question of the week. My questions comes from Deut. 27:9, “Take heed and listen, O Israel; this day you have become the people of the L-rd your G-d.” The word listen is translated from the word shema. You all have heard this word many times. It can also be translated as hear.

I want us to take a bit of time and contrast the difference between hearing and listening. I would also ask you to consider the difference between our sense of listening/hearing and our other senses. For example, sight tells us what is on the surface or the external appearance of things. Listening tells us more about the depth of what is being communicated. It gives us a much deeper understanding of a situation. It is through sound, both speaking and listening, that we are present with one another. It is through listening that we encounter the depth of another person, especially now during this pandemic, we are able to listen more closely without all the interference we normally encounter.

We hear a lot in any one day but we listen only to those things, or people, whom we have an interest in what they are saying. So listening is a whole different thing than just hearing. Listening requires our attention, our concentration. Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

We are in the last book of Torah. It is named D’Varim in Hebrew. One of its meanings is word. G-d created the world with words. He speaks to us today through His word. Often we hear Him but do we listen to what He is saying? Maybe we have been in a meeting or even in a religious service and the sound of the words may be heard but do we really listen to what is being said? Or maybe we are meeting with someone and rather than really listening to what is being said we are formulating our own response to what we have heard and not to what the person is really trying to say. One of the greatest things that can happen to us is to meet someone who knows how to truly listen.  So it is with us and G-d our Abba. When we pray He listens to our prayer. We must listen for His answers. 

In scripture we read of many times when listening was both used and not used. For example in the meeting between Isaac and Jacob, Isaac was almost blind. When Jacob came into him pretending to be Esau we read that Isaac tasted the food and it tasted like what Esau would have cooked. He smelled Jacob’s clothing. He touched his hands and in Genesis 27:22 he concluded, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” How much anguish might have been spared had he trusted his ears more than his taste, smell, and touch.

Another example is the prophet Elijah when he was on the mountain after running from Jezebel. If you remember he was frightened and G-d showed him a powerful wind, then an earthquake, then a fire but G-d was in none of these. Rather G-d came to him in a still small voice. The prophet had to be listening.

We have to be listening, especially now. G-d is speaking through the events that swirl around us. We must not let the noise of the world drown out His voice to His people and to each of us. Listening opens us up to what the Father is saying. Take the time to listen. Our faith is that connection that allows us to hear plainly what He is saying to each of us, to hear the music beneath the noise of the world.

In conclusion, I want to just say a word about our lives today and who we are as G-d’s people. In Deut. 26:18-19 we read where G-d is speaking to Israel saying that they, this day, have become a holy people to the L-rd. We as believers have been grafted in to these people. This requires something from us. In I Peter 1:15 we read, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” We only know how to live that kind of life when we listen to His voice. We must be able to truly listen to Him and what He expects from us as we are now part of His people. We can’t just sit on our hands but rather we are expected to do His will, live our life according to His word, listen to Him, learn His ways. Bless each of you today with good ears that you can listen for that still small voice.