This week we read Parashat Va’etchanan.
The Ten Commandments and the Shema are both read in it, commanding us to listen, listen to the bigger picture in life, listen to what really matters. “Listen Israel, give heed to the laws and rules that I am instructing you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Eternal, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” (Deut 4:1).
The Shema teaches us about listening….listening to ourselves, listening to our hearts, to our souls, and to each other. By listening, we can stay more connected to the deeper meaning of life. Listening actually makes us see with better clarity, and that makes us engagemore with those around us. It makes us more atuned to things. It sharpens our vision.
Parashat Va’etchanan recalls the details of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, a model for the deep, committed relationship that is ideal for connecting to our fellow human beings.
As part of the declaration of Israel’s unique relationship with God alone, we are reminded that we must love God with “all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our might.”
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
Hear O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal Alone.
In the image above, just as in the text of the Torah, the last letter of the word ‘shema’ and the last letter of the word ‘echad’ are written larger than the other letters. These two letters, ayin and dalet, spell the word eid, meaning witness.
There is a midrash that says God wants us to listen more than we talk, for that’s why we have two ears and only one mouth. Life is about hearing the calls of God in our life, dedicating ourselves not only to bettering ourselves, but also to helping our neighbors— through generosity, tzedakah and kindness.