Yom Shishi, 19 Iyyar 5779
Friday, 24 May 2019
Parashat Ha'azinu 2011

Parashat Ha'azinu by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
30 September 2011

The Power of Listening

 

"Give ear, O heavens, let me speak!"  (Deuteronomy 32:1)

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we seek to make amends for all our transgressions of this past year.  The hardest and the most important place to do this is in our relationships with others.

When we have a disagreement with a colleague, when we distance ourselves from a friend, when a family feud develops with a relative; we form a narrative in our own mind.  This narrative tells us what happened and why we are angry or hurt but it rarely tells us why the other person is angry or hurt.

Relationships break down, crimes are committed and wars are fought because everybody walks around with a set of narrative so strong that it leaves no space for alternative versions.

The National Peace Academy is an organization, run by Len and Libby Traubman, that for 16 years has brought together Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians; not to speak to each other but to listen to each other.  Their motto: "An enemy is someone whose story you have not yet heard."

We often think that we should use the Ten Days of Repentence to say 'sorry' to those we have wronged and to ask them for forgiveness.  Perhaps the Torah portion that we read on Shabbat Shuvah, beginning with the word ha'azinu, 'give ear', teaches us that we should not be speaking to those we have wronged but listening to them.

If we set about to hear the personal narratives of others, to hear their sides of the story, we may achieve a far deeper level of reconciliation, forgiveness and repentance.  By listening others without interrupting, asking questions, making comparisons or trying to defend our own position, we may actually come to understand why they were angry or hurt.

When was the last time that you said to someone, "Tell me your story!", and then sat back and really listened?