`Hear Ye, Hear Ye’

Dear Parents,

This week’s Parsha begins with the words – Vayishma Yisro – “and Yisro heard.”  Rashi asks what is it (among the things) he heard that caused him to (leave his comfortable life of power and influence and) come out into the desert?  It was the splitting of the Sea and the war with Amalek.

Many people hear, but who takes it to heart?The Zohar (Shemos 18:1) asks the famous question. Did only Yisro hear of these miracles? Isn’t it written; “The nations heard and shuddered?  The answer is, the whole world heard and were not humbled and Yisro heard and was humbled and was drawn close to fear Hashem.”

Many people hear, but who takes it to heart?  Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita points out that before the Torah can tell us “And Hashem spoke” the Aseres Hadibros (Ten Commandments), we must first learn what it means to listen. Perhaps this is why the account of the revelation at Sinai is preceded by “And Yisro heard.”

What does it mean to listen properly? A person must give serious consideration to the possibility that lessons contained within the words they are hearing might apply to them.  Whether the message is to buckle your seat belt, not to talk during davening, or please help needy families – do we take these entreaties as applying to us, or do we allow them to slide off our backs and not pay them any heed.  Somehow, we are able to feel they apply to everyone else except us.

We must show them that we are listening to what they say…How often do our children seem to not pay any heed to our instructions and directions? Do our words penetrate?

How do we get our children to pay attention to us and our lessons and admonitions?   There are two steps we need to take:

1) Role modeling how we listen to others, especially our family – our children will respond to us in the manner we respond to them. We must show them that we are listening to what they say, taking the trouble to show we understand what they are saying and then responding as appropriate.  Even when we can’t agree with a request of theirs, if we acknowledge the feeling behind it – “I see you’re disappointed, sad, frustrated…” we show them that they and their needs and requests are important and were given due consideration even if the outcome was not what they were hoping for.

2) Demand a response from your children. If you ask something from them, don’t let them ignore you.  Stay focused on what you said, and insist on a response.  If you do, you will condition your child to listen when he or she hears your voice, because they will be required to respond.

…you will be training your child to be attuned to the needs, interests and teachings of othersThere are many steps in getting your child to do what you want them to do (which hopefully is always something that is in their best interest).  Before that can happen, they must be trained to listen.  If you allow your questions, requests and instructions to be ignored, you will be setting the stage for your child to ignore teachers, friends and ultimately spouse, co-workers and colleagues.   By remaining aware of the need for some response (even if only a grunt(!)) you will be training your child to be attuned to the needs, interests and teachings of others, which is a key to a life of success, growth and fulfillment.

Best wishes for a Shabbos attuned to the word of Hashem and the needs of our loved ones,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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