What Does It Really Mean to Hear?

What Does It Really Mean to Hear?

I have no reason to doubt her,
but I have to admit that I was surprised when I read it.
Most would agree with me that this remarkable woman
certainly was qualified to make the claim she made.
After all, she was both blind and deaf.
When Helen Keller indicated that being unable to hear
was even worse than being unable to see,
it is reasonable to accept what she believed to be true.

Speaking through the Hebrew prophets of old,
God frequently complains of how God’s people —
usually, but not always, those with power or prestige —
had ears, but failed to hear God’s Word.
Jesus makes similar complaints in the gospels.
Helen Keller and others have noted that there
are none so blind as they who will not see.
Perhaps it is also true there are none so deaf
as those who will not hear.

At the heart of Jewish faith and practice, is
the “Shema Yisrael,” that seems to me to be
both a statement and expression of faith.
These two words are the first two words
of three scripture passages proclaimed by
devout Jews in the morning and at night.
These two words are “Hear, O Israel!”
They are both a command and a reminder.

I read last year of a national poll that
indicates less than half of the USA’s
Catholics and Protestants were able
to name all four of the gospels.
It’s a tossup whether or not we should
be more shocked or embarrassed.

What does it really mean to hear?
Rabbi Jack Riemer in the Likrat Shabbat Siddur
offers this wonderful meditation that
any person of faith would do well to consider:

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Judaism begins with the commandment:
Hear O Israel!
But what does it really mean to hear?

The person who attends a concert
With his mind on business
Hears—but does not really hear.

The person who walks amid the songs of birds
And thinks only of what he will have for dinner
Hears—but does not really hear.

The man who listens to the words of his friend,
Or his wife, or his child
And does not catch the note of urgency:
Notice me, help me, care about me,
Hears—but does not really hear.

The man who listens to the news
And thinks only of how it will affect business
Hears—but does not really hear.

The person who hears the Hazzan pray
And does not feel the call to join with
Hears—but does not really hear.

The person who listens to the rabbi’s sermon
And thinks that someone else is being addressed,
Hears—but does not really hear.

— Rabbi Jack Riemer in the Likrat Shabbat Siddur

[press HERE for two versions of a prayer written by the Rabbi]

[Heartlight provides positive resources for daily Christian Living, like this artwork LINK TO HEARTLIGHT]

[Link to book]

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About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Songs and Poetry, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What Does It Really Mean to Hear?

  1. nancy davisson says:

    just wonderful.

  2. Pingback: Catholic Writers Pope St. Pius X Pope St. Evarstus | Big Pulpit

  3. Pingback: Rest stop « Dolce Domum

  4. DaveRHancock, usa, maryville tn says:

    Like Food > Sounds we hear- digested by the mind – become our beliefs….

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