Is there a difference between hearing and listening? When someone says, ‘Hear me out,’ do they really want you to just hear them? Or, are they looking for something more? Hearing is a simple act. Listening is an essential part of hearing.

When a teacher asks, ‘Are you listening?’ they are seeking more than just hearing the words. They want you to think differently and steer your mind in a different direction.

We can take it further. When a parent demands, ‘Listen to me,’ they want their child to hear their words, think differently and carry out their wishes! They hope their words will motivate action.

In Judaism, the most important and most spoken prayer begins with Shema Yisrael, translated as Hear Oh Israel. ‘Hear’ is not an exact translation. Sometimes it’s translated as ‘Listen Oh Israel, the version I prefer. Listening is harder than hearing. Listening begs our attention and asks us to think for ourselves.

I teach the distinction between hearing and listening in my Rosh Hashana Video for Young Families when I sound the shofar. Yes, that is me blowing or sounding the shofar in the video, in case you wondered.

The shofar’s earthy, resonant, disharmonious sound is so different from any other sound a horn or voice makes, we stop and listen. The sound represents how we need to cry out when we need help. Each ram has two horns. The other horn, the one being sounded somewhere else in the world, represents listening. When someone cries out, it is our duty to listen and respond to the call for help.

With the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) fast approaching, this video for young families will awaken minds and hearts about the difference between hearing, listening and action.

If you want to give a Rosh Hashana gift to a family or your synagogue or Hebrew School is looking for an educational resource either for a classroom activity or a service, look no further! More information here.

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