Hear and Remember

ʻEkev Drash by Sandra Z. Armstrong

The great joy of Shabbat carries through every day until the time comes when we open up the Torah and the words flow through us. In ʻEkev, Moses stresses the importance of “remembering” to his people, Israel. For instance: 7:18 “You shall always remember,” 8:2 “Remember the long way,” 8:14 “Take care lest you forget,” 8:18 “Therefore remember God,” 8:19 “It will come to pass, if you should nevertheless forget,” and 9:7 “Remember, never forget.” Then in our haftarah today, Isaiah reiterates the need to keep our covenantal relationship with God. Zion says: “The Lord has forsaken me, My Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her baby? Or disown the child of her womb? Though she might forget, I never could forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are ever before Me.” God has not forgotten. Yet the secret of keeping the relationship alive is a two way open channel of remembrance. To achieve this purpose, rabbis designed the B’racha (blessings), an ingenious invention of remembrance – when we sit, when we lie down, when we get up, and when we eat. We remember our mothers, our fathers, our family members and friends by lighting memorial candles at their yahrzeit. We have weekly reminders of who came before us. Reading and studying the weekly parsha in the Torah takes you into the silent, unspoken world of heaven while still being on earth. Whether or not our people followed the words of Moshe, after 5,000 years, we survived and so has our weekly Torah reading. Imprinted in our makeup and our DNA these words expressed by Moshe guide us into every future generation.

אלֹהיךָ–  לבבךָ  –נפשיךָ  –מְאֹדֶךָ  – ביתיךָ

The Shema is extended this week into an entire parsha of ʻEkev as spoken by Moshe. The active voice of the Shema “Hear” is an aerobic activity for Jews. Throughout this parsha, words are personalized with the poetic -kha, your: eloheykha, your God, Levakha your heart, nafshekha, your soul, m’odehkha, your might, baytekha, your house. ʻEkev translates as obey, heed…and the poetry within the Hebrew language is a symphony that touches our hearts. Western culture is caught up in the idea of “seeing” as knowing. Devarim 4:12 addresses this – “The Lord spoke to you out of the fire.You heard the sound of words, but you saw no image: there was only a voice”. Speaking and listening are forms of engagement that create a relationship. The Hebrew word for knowledge is daat, which implies involvement, closeness, intimacy . Listening to a person’s feelings is of utmost importance as God listens to us. Listening is a profoundly spiritual act and sometimes even painful. It is the greatest gift that we can give to a fellow human being.

Recently I had a procedure done at the Windward Surgery Center at Castle Hospital in Kailua. I can’t say enough wonderful words about this staff of nurses, aides and doctors. I absorbed what I learned from studying ʻEkev and applied it to my experience. As I lay in a hospital bed, I listened to nurses call everyone from the day before and ask “How are you doing” and “Could we have done anything better for you?”  I heard it over and over again. The kindness and the laughter that went between the patients on the phone and the two nurses was positively uplifting. Two other nurses came by, one to help me before the procedure and one after. Both times, I asked them, “How are you doing? What is your life like being a nurse?” And then I listened intently and learned a lot. Sometimes nurses and aides in hospitals could be overlooked but the truth of the matter is, every person benefits from sharing themselves with others and all we have to do is listen.

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