Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Tremendous Opportunities and Glorious Choices"

[This week's Haveil Havalim is available here]

I’ve long been a fan of the message of, “Listen more than you speak; when you’re talking, you’re not learning.” You know – Gd gave you two ears, one mouth, better to listen, and so on.

I believe this; it’s one of the reasons I’m happy to be out of the pulpit rabbinate. I get to spend more time listening, and therefore learning.

Steven Spielberg takes this point to another level in a message gleaned from the Shma (hat tip: Jameel), on a program called, “Inside the Actors Studio”:

[Leave aside Spielberg’s point about that voice being the voice inside. As I once heard a respected rabbi observe, a key message of Matan Torah (Revelation at Sinai) is that the voice is outside of ourselves, that we don’t have the answers within, and that we need to learn them from others. The inner compass does matter, of course, but the humility to recognize the value in others’ opinions matters more.]

Spielberg’s closing lines are truly excellent:
When people don’t listen, it’s not that they don’t learn. They just deny themselves tremendous opportunities and glorious choices. They deny themselves this. And it’s their own damn fault.

Spielberg’s point goes beyond learning; it’s about an openness to the universe’s possibilities, as they emerge through others’ counsel or a random phone call or a wrong turn or a missed flight.

Mussar to myself: Listen to what the world is telling you. A person whose life is planned and whose schedule is set, who cannot re-shuffle the deck when the world changes, is frustrated rather than enriched by new input or a wrinkle in the contours of his life.

Listening, on the other hand, whether to words or to opportunities, can open up a whole new universe.


  1. Leave aside Spielberg’s point about that voice being the voice inside
    No can do. As you hinted, it's the still small voice out of the whirlwind that we need to listen for (vos zogt gott?)

    Joel Rich

  2. I think that it is really a mix of both inner and outer voices. The hard part is trying to figure out what it all means and how to respond to what you hear.