Parashat Yitro

How We Hear

Jewish tradition places great emphasis on the way in which we hear and how we interpret the messages we receive.

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However, if a third party is present, and he does not need to know this information, it is considered lashon hara with respect to him and he must not listen. Yet if he were to put his fingers in his ears, he would seem to signal that he believes the information is objectively lashon hara. This might wrongly discourage the one relating the information from continuing. So, by turning in his earlobe, the third party signifies that this information is lashon hara only with respect to him.

I close this d’var Torah with the blessing that each of us should be able to appreciate the majesty of Revelation as it was intended for us as a nation, as well as each of us individually. Attuning our ears to the words of Revelation and the life lessons passed down to us by our sages requires each of us to see ourselves as rings in a long chain of tradition.

Unlike the game of telephone we played as children, we must each take an active hand (and ear) in safeguarding the quality of the message we pass along to others. It is in this way that we prove ourselves worthy of the appellation applied to us in this week’s parashah: “A treasured possession…a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-7).

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David Frankel is the Associate International Director at NCSY. He was previously the director of the Young Leadership Division of UJA-Federation of New York.