And after the New Year…

The way a couple tells their story predicts divorce or marital stability with 94 percent accuracy. Turns out there is high correlation between an eventual break up and divorce, and low scores in fondness among the partners, high scores in negativity, the absence of positivity in problem solving, low in “we-ness”, high in chaos, low in glorifying the struggle, and high in disappointment of the marriage.
This (“coincidentally”) flew into my desk as I was thinking about this week’s reading of Ha’azinu, and it made me wonder, if our relationship with G-d through this Jewish way of life – however we define both of them – can be likened to other couple relationships and issues, which Kabala would say of course, it would follow that how we tell our story might have a lot to do with us still being here, still getting up to celebrate yet another new year, together.
Rosh Hashana is big, but, like in any other relationship, it’s not about the occasional “wow”. It’s about the daily investments. And when we finally get out of the holiday and walk into the next Shabbat, we’ll be coming to Moses’ last song, Ha’azinu.
Thinking about my writing this week, I could not get past the first word: Ha’azinu – listen – asks Moses of the heavens before he begins to speak, “listen and then I shall speak”, he says. In our modern-day hectic life, bombarded with millions of messages and attention grabbers, we might think, ‘start speaking and if you have anything useful to say and / or otherwise get my attention, maybe I’ll stop clicking and try and catch the rest’, but Moses knows it’s not so. Real, on-going listening must be one of the biggest commitment one can make. It’s like preparing a vessel to hold what another will put in. When there is no listening, there is no giving input and sharing, whether verbal or otherwise. This in turn takes us out of what we crave most, the flow in life.
Ha’azinu is one of the first instructions we’ll hear in the New Year. There are details in this grand song that are incomprehensible. No matter what language you read it in, it makes no sense. So what. Many of us go to Operas or listen to foreign chants without understanding a word of Italian or Hindi. To paraphrase a great teacher or mine, “life is not a cognitive experience”. A lot, but not everything can be grasped mentally. Sometimes we just have to stop and listen. Even Moses had to ask the heavens, who, we might think, have anyway nothing better to do! All the more so, when it comes to us.
But turns out, listening has to do not only with increasing the “flow”, but also with how we will retell our stories later. Studies show, the more details in the story – the better we’ll remember. But, if we go back to the beginning of this post, it’s not only about the amount of details but also about the content. What do we remember? Being slaughtered in Europe or being saved against all odds? Nazi soldier or righteous gentiles? The amazing miracle and joy of being Jewish or the burden of 613 do’s and don’t’s plus untold amount of extra sub categories?? All are true so it’s not about the “truth”; it’s about the story. That is our choice. So what do we choose? What do we tell? Further: is it possible that some of the troubles and “challenges” we see in the current state of the Jewish world (disengagement, assimilation etc etc) is due to the fact that we’re telling a depressing story rather than a happy story? That no one wants to “stay together” in a relationship that is all about gas chambers, a seemingly unsolvable Middle East conflict and an angry G-d??
Maybe that’s good for a New Year resolution – listen better and tell a happier story. Today, that’s all it’s about.
Shana Tova & Shabbat Shalom.

real listening. it's a commitment.

real listening. it’s a commitment.

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