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The Shema and Holy Listening...

    B"H  Tevet 5773

Holy Listening

Further Reflections on the Shema...

by John J. Parsons

Deut. 6:4

"Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God; the LORD is One."
– Deut. 6:4

WHICH COMMANDMENT OF THE TORAH is the most important of all? Or, to put it another way, what is it that God requires of us? What is the purpose of our lives, and how can we fulfill that purpose?  Yeshua began to answer this question by declaring the Shema: "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one" (Mark 12:29).

The great commandment is always shema, "listen," because sincere listening requires that we surrender our self-centered perspective and immerse ourselves within the meaning and needs of another. Listening opens us to God's heart in all things, and therefore is essential for the "conversation" between our soul and the LORD. The act of listening is a sign of love, and that's why we feel so lonely when we have no one willing to hear our words.  Many people are quick to speak but precious few sacrifice themselves through selfless listening. The spiritual life, however, ultimately is shared life: We can do together what we cannot do individually. Yeshua prayed that we would know how much we need one another (John 17:21-23). The first step is to listen to God.

Genuine listening creates a sense of trust and openness between people. When real listening is going on, there is no need to "talk over" the other person, because the listener "speaks" through his or her respectful silence... Nonetheless we must set godly boundaries. It is not loving to listen to someone gossip, slander, abuse themselves, or chatter about vanities – unless this somehow leads to honest self-disclosure. Spiritual listening is "set apart," holy, and hears the words spoken from the heart in a place of refuge.

God never asks of us what He does not do... If He urges us to listen to Him, to heed the voice of His love, then we can trust that He likewise listens to us and will answer the call of our hearts for Him. Regarding the Shema, "holy listening" involves more than just hearing with the physical ear, of course, but hearing with heart: "You shall love... you shall talk of God's love at all times, in all places, and know Him in all you do (Deut. 6:5-9).

We are able to listen to God by the agency of God's Spirit. God's words are breathed out and made alive to us in a mysterious way (John 3:8; 6:33). And just as God breathed into us the "breath of life" to become a living soul, so Yeshua breathes into us the Holy Spirit to quicken eternal life within us (John 20:22). Communing with God and others means breathing out the words of life that were first breathed into us.

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew-English transliteration

shema  Yisrael  Adonai  Elohenu  Adonai  echad

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