It is a practice for Jewish homes to have a relic called “The Mezuzah” on each door frame of one’s home. Inside the mezuzah case is inscribed a prayer claiming God’s oneness. As if to say, this home and its inhabitants are part of the singular fabric of unity which all of the universe inhabits. By kissing the mezuzah coming and going we have an ongoing relationship with this thought, leaving our hearts and minds to become more accountable to the purpose of exposing this truth in our daily physical lives.
For a mezuzah to remain holy, every single word in the scroll must be intact. To keep us accountable to this practice, we have a tradition to check the scrolls at least twice every 7 years. A few years ago I decided to have our mezuzahs checked. We had 3 mezuzahs that were not kosher and needed to be replaced. One of the mezuzahs that was unsalvageable had the word “shema” (which means “listen”) cracked in half. At that time of our lives everything had become extremely chaotic. Our family was dealing with ongoing illness, severe financial setbacks and inner turmoil and personal conflict. I often think what happens in a mezuzah can be reflected back into our physical realm.
Serendipitously the week our discovery was made about the broken mezuzah, the Torah portion known as Eikev (this week’s portion as well) was read in synagogues all over the world that week. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has noted the Shema was thematic to that particular Biblical portion by explaining,
“If only you would listen to these laws…” (Deut. 7:12). These words with which our Torah portion contain a verb that is a fundamental motif of the book of Devarim…In fact, this verb appears no less than 92 times in Devarim as a whole.”
Rabbi sacks goes on to explain-
“One of the most striking facts about the Torah is that, although it contains 613 commands, it does not contain a word that means “to obey.” When such a word was needed in modern Hebrew, the verb le-tzayet was borrowed from Aramaic. The verb used by the Torah in place of “to obey” is “sh-m-a,” (To listen). This is of the highest possible significance. It means that blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us. He wants us to reflect on why this law, not that. He wants us to listen, to reflect, to seek to understand, to internalise and to respond. He wants us to become a listening people.”
In other words God charged us to listen and to hear our why. Why are we doing things – why are we here- are we listening to our heart and what is it saying? Are we ignoring our truth and our calling?
Simon Sinek an inspirational speaker says to find your why (so you are inspired to listen to your heart) ask several friends (not family- only friends) “Why are you friends with me and then lead into ‘what questions’ like ‘What is it about me that I know you would be there for me no matter what?’ Inherently, your friend will tell you they don’t know- it won’t be easy for them but keep at it and eventually they’ll give up and they’ll stop trying to describe you and they’ll begin to describe themselves- what emotional thing happens to them from being in your presence and then you will know what unique offering you have to give to the world- you will know your why.”
For example Simon said his friend said “I can just sit in a room with you, I don’t even have to talk to you- and I feel inspired.”
The fact that Simon elicited inspiration into his friend gave him the clarity that his why is about being an inspired speaker and teacher to those around him. He became clear on why he is here. He’s here to inspire others. So what are you here to do and are you listening to those hints? Are you hearing your calling as God has charged us to do when he said “listen.”
I think about this question quite often. And with our broken mezuzah I was reminded that once again, we were being charged to hear our higher voice and Divine guidance. I believe it is our collective responsibility to ask why- why do we have certain patterns, are we listening to our Godly Divine voice or are we allowing others to dictate our decisions? Am I listening to my spouse? Am I hearing my children? Am I ignoring God’s whispers? Am I ignoring my own? Am I listening to my dreams? Am I hearing my soul? Am I noticing my spirit? Or the spirit of another? Can I only hear my broken narrative? Do I notice the impact of that false story? Can I change the story and heal the wound?
As the last month of the Jewish year, known as Elul approaches, we have a Godly gift we get to indulge in to hear this Godly voice that we might be ignoring, to listen and to pay attention to truth. We get to do this exercise every single year for the entire month of Elul and then to perfect it during the month of Tishrei as Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year followed by the day of atonement and the final holiday of Sukkot where we elaborate on being in joy and in our hearts and bodies. The Jewish perspective on enlightenment lives through struggling with our why- and begs us to really listen to our hearts. But listening takes quiet. It takes covering our eyes from all distractions, and finally hearing as is the practice when we say the prayer “shema yisroel hashem elokeinu, hashem echod, Hear O’ israel, the Lord is our God, the lord is one.” We say this prayer with our right hand covering our eyes as we reflect deeply and meditate on the words to penetrate our hearts and beings. We reflect on the oneness of our elaborate universe as we vibe together on this seamless collective spirit.
We are all part of this singular unified source, all we must do is truly listen to the vibrations of our soul guiding us to the course correction needed in those moments of hazy disruption.