“Let's table the discussion" is an Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
The following is a copy of a letter sent to the New York Symphony Orchestra in February 1924. The author conveys her personal thanks for her ability to appreciate the orchestra’s performance through the radio the evening before. However, note the unique appreciation of the writer given her personal method of “listening”:
I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony." I do not mean to say that I "heard" the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibrations, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roll of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voice leaped up trilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices. I felt the chorus grow more exultant, more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still. The women's voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth—an ocean of heavenly vibration—and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.
Of course, this was not "hearing" but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sensed, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand—swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations.
As I listened, with darkness and melody, shadow and sound filling all the room, I could not help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marvelled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others—and there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.
Let me thank you warmly for all the delight which your beautiful music has brought to my household and to me. I want also to thank Station WEAF for the joy they are broadcasting in the world.
With kindest regards and best wishes, I am,
Ironically, it is in a Parsha called Re’eh (“see”) that we are told of a Beracha based on the power of listening. The Torah tells us that the Beracha placed, is “Asher Tishmiu” THAT you will listen. How is that a blessing? Shouldn’t the Beracha come “Ki Im” IF you will listen? Why does the Torah say “Asher”?
My friend and Boca Raton Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Josh Flug cited the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh who suggests that the beracha is not a reward for listening to the mitzvos of HaShem. Rather, the beracha is the ability to be able to listen the words of HaShem. When we are able to tune everything out and listen to the words of HaShem, we can see what a beracha that can be in our lives.
Sometimes, we are so busy trying to hear everything that we lack the ability to really listen and attend to the component parts and the sum total of the beauty that exists in Hashem’s messages to us, passed through in the appreciate of the beauty of nature and the seriousness of world events. Having the filter of Mitzvos Hashem provides us the ability to hear and appreciate the fullness of the world and the Kavod Hashem in both its minutest component and its greatest collaboration.
The Month of Elul is often associated with the shofar sound that accompanies us each day – calling us to the Teshuva process. It can only serve as an aide to us, if we are ready to hear the sound and move toward Him. That too, is part of the Beracha of hearing.
How well do YOU hear the Berachos?
In what areas are they sending a message to YOU?
Are you ready to listen and respond?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.