Wise Ears and Understanding Hearts

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  January 9, 2019

Rabbi Eckstein looking ahead at a large body of water with mountains behind it.

If you follow the news from Israel, you know that the nation is slated to hold elections on April 9. There is much political “horse-trading” going on, as candidates work to form coalitions and competitors try to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu. It’s a process that leads to an ongoing war of words between rival candidates; one writer’s memorable description of Israel as a “noisy democracy” has never seemed so apt.

Beyond news from Israel, Americans, of course, are no strangers to political noise and controversy, and the political climate in the U.S. today is particularly charged. Outrage is the currency of the day. People share their thoughts, both edifying and demeaning, via social media. The 24-hour news cycle informs us, but also inflames our passions, often bringing more heat than light. Public controversies become personal, and even close family members have become alienated from each other in this volatile atmosphere.

It is such a blessing that Jews and Christians can turn to the Bible to remember, amid all the noise, that we are admonished to listen, both to God and to each other, and to exercise kindness in our words and expression.

The book of Proverbs is rich in this timeless advice. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (1:5). “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease” (1:33). “Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding … then you will understand the fear of the LORD” (2:2,5). “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (12:25).

How difficult it can be for us, besieged as we are by noise from all sides, to turn our ears to wisdom and apply our hearts to understanding! And yet, it is only then that we understand our proper place in the world, how to treat our fellow man, and how to truly please God. Thoughtfulness, humility, and kindness are truly counter-cultural values in today’s world.

My friends, it is important to speak out for what we believe is right, and to support the political candidates that we believe best reflect our deepest-held values.  But we must never forget that political systems rise and fall like all works of man, and that true freedom is found in trusting in God, in listening patiently for His Word to us, and in treating each other with the respect we all deserve as children of God. Then we will truly understand what it means to “live in safety and be at ease.”

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