To Love is to Listen. {And a Meditation}

This week’s Torah portion (parashat) is a double portion: Acharei-Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27).

In Parashat Acharei, G-d spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu. They yearned to be close to G-d, to leave their earthly existence, which was the cause of their deaths. Their spiritual pursuit was their greatest fault: their lack of realization that G-d puts each of us here for a purpose, to have an earthly existence.

How can we be close to G-d without trying to get too close and forget our soul’s responsibilities here on earth?

We can direct our intense desires to come close to G-d into our everyday lives and with those around us, which leads into the other portion for this week, Kedoshim.

Kedoshim is filled with the basic teachings of the Torah – the ways we can remain close with G-d through our relationships with our fellow human beings and other living creatures.

begins: “You should be holy, because I, G-d your G-d, am holy.”

Moses begins relaying G-d’s teachings to the people of Israel on a positive note. Here we are, finite beings, and we have the ability to be holy! We have the choice to approach life and greet each day with a positive outlook and greet everyone we meet with warmth, as though we are greeting ourselves.

And that is the way to remain connected with G-d and our earthly existence simultaneously:“You shall love your fellow like you love yourself.” (Kedoshim, Verse 18)

Rabbi Akiva said, “This is the fundamental principle of the Torah.” And, Hillel said, “This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary.”

You shall love your fellow like you love yourself.

Easier said than done. This teaching acknowledges that others are like us, but we aren’t carbon copies. That difference is the crux of discourse and war. When it becomes difficult to love our fellowmen and women whom we don’t understand or disagree with, we turn our backs, we condemn them and we un-friend them on Facebook (I’ve done all of these things).

I think about it like this: You don’t have to like everyone, but you can love everyone. What does it mean to love? How do you love?

The foundation of every definition of love is this — to love is to listen.

To love someone is to acknowledge them with the completeness of our attention, seeing them, being aware of their presence, hearing their words or their silence and accepting them as they are, even if we don’t agree with their politics or the decisions they make. Under all of the differences is something we all share: the yearning to be heard.

It is my belief that G-d wants the same thing, to be heard.

I resonate with these words: “Prayer is the opportunity to talk with G-d; Meditation is our opportunity to listen to what G-d has to say.” The reciprocity of communication: the balance of talking and listening.

In Pirkei Avot 3:2 it says, “When two sit together and interchange words of Torah, the Divine Presence abides between them.”In order to interchange words, we need to be listening, loving the other as they fulfill their soul’s purpose, to express what only they can contribute to the world, even if we don’t agree with their perspective or interpretation.

We can share these words of Torah without saying a word. We tend to focus so much on the words, but how often do we take the opportunity to look at the pause between the letters and the blank backdrop of the scroll, the silence. Between each letter, we are given the opportunity to listen, to give G-d an opportunity to speak to us.

This is the purpose of meditation. In order for our prayers to be heard, we must pay attention to ourselves first, to prepare ourselves by listening to our soul’s whispers to know what we are asking for and give others the opportunity to do that, too.

To honor this week’s double Torah portion, here is a partner meditation and a way to share the words of the Torah, by giving each other our full, undivided attention, in silence so that we may become aware of the holiness that resides in us, as us, and exists all around us…

Ask a friend or a loved one to sit facing you, knees to knees, hands in hands.
Close your eyes.
Pay attention to the feeling of your limbs touching, your hands embracing.
Sense your breath; listen to your inhalation and exhalation.
Listen to your partner’s breath; focus on them, the way they feel, the way they sound.
After a few minutes, open your eyes.
Look into your partner’s eyes as they look into yours.
Communicate through your loving gaze that you see them, that you hear them, that you love them.
Stay in this loving awareness as long as you are comfortable.
Finish your meditation with a hug.

Shalom & Namaste. ~Rebecca

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