Elul Week 2

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, August 25, 2023 / 8 Elul 5783

Summary: As the month of Elul begins, the focus of these Oasis Songs will be on High Holiday themes, barring some earth-shaking event. This year, I am grateful to partner with Debbie Plawner, who has been creating a deck of cards inspired by, in her words, “the infinite light of Torah.” Her Elul cards support the spiritual preparation we undertake in the month leading up to our Yamim Noraim, our Days of Awe. To learn more, please reach out to Debbie at dplawner@gmail.com.

The graphics from her cards will be my Oasis Elul headers, below which I share reflections based on the card of the week.

Reading Time: Two minutes


Recently, the night air has been thick with the screams, yips and growls of coyotes. The howl of a coyote is a frightful, layered thing, ranging from plaintive to threatening; it contains both complaint and assertion. Lying in the dark, my sleep already disturbed, I endeavored to unravel the complex score of this canine symphony. Doing so reminded me of Karl Haas.

Karl Haas was a German Jew who studied under the great pianist, Artur Schnabel, another German Jew. With the rise of the Nazis, Haas fled to the United States in 1936 where he gained fame as a classical music host and produced a record entitled “How to Listen to a Symphony.” In it, Haas taught his audience how to listen, thereby coming to greater appreciation of the music and the deep human expression it relayed. What Haas was getting at is that while hearing may be an innate sense, listening is an active capacity that we each can grow. During the intervening years, scientists have been able to pinpoint how the brains of blind people develop greater acuity. The blind have learned to listen more deeply than most of their sighted friends; as a result, their ability to hear has also expanded.

Elul is a reminder that each of us has the capacity and obligation to increase our ability to listen. The listening of Elul calls into use more than our ears. We are asked to listen with our hearts and minds. We are commanded to listen to our conscience and to the plight of the vulnerable. We are urged to listen to the lessons of history, as well as our partners and children. Perhaps most difficult in our noisy, secular world, we are invited to listen to God. In this process, we become better attuned to our place in the world, the one we share with coyotes, bees, clouds, and strangers.

Where have you turned a deaf ear? Who did you forget to listen to this year? Have you paid sufficient attention to your own, still, small voice?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav D

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