Israeli Values Religious Voices

ב"ה, שבט תשפ"ג

Letter 6 - Rabbi Ilay Ofran

To: The State of Israel and all its inhabitants ,

Blessings on your 75th Independence.

This was the exact age when Abraham encountered God, who commanded him to leave his homeland, the land of his father, and to go to the land of Canaan: “Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran”(Genesis 12, 4).

Many ideas and values can be learned from Abraham’s character, who is willing to go on a long and difficult journey at such an advanced age. One of these values seems particularly important and relevant especially for us nowadays - the value of listening. 

The “Sfat Emet” (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter) wrote in his sermons about the greatness and the uniqueness of Abraham: “He himself is the glory, because he heard the call “lech-lecha” (go forth) from God to all people always” (Sfat Emet, Lech-Lecha, 1877). He believed that God calls all human beings, in all generations at all times. Abraham’s virtue was that he was the first one who heard this calling. 

In order to be able to hear, we need to strive to listen, but listening is not an easy task. There is a superficial listening, such as: “I didn’t disturb you, you don’t disturb me”, which is some sort of courtesy or culture of discussion. It is a worthy practice, of course, but when each side is merely waiting patiently for their turn to speak, it’s not really listening. There is a deeper level of listening, one in which each side not only awaits their turn to speak patiently, but also asks questions in order to understand and get to the bottom of things. 

Real listening, however, the most superb, is the one we are most lacking. It’s the willingness to genuinely examine the voice I just heard. The ability to subvert my own assumptions and open a doorway to a possibility that I leave the conversation differently than the way I entered into it.  

If initially I sealed my mind and heart to the possibility of change, even if I am polite and curious, I am not really listening.

Abraham at 75 was still capable of truly listening, of hearing the voice calling him, or undermining familiar assumptions, of stepping out of his comfort zone and changing.  

Can we be wise enough to follow the footsteps of our old forefather and develop true listening? Perhaps this listening is the meaning of the proclamation we call morning and evening - “Shema Israel” (Hear, oh Israel)?!


Rabbi Ilay Ofran

Rabbi Ilay Ofran is the Rabbi of the Yavne group, head of the pre-army gap year program “Ruah Sade” (the spirit of the field), and a psychologist. He is married to Avital and is a father of five.

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