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The Still Small Voice

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

When the shofar blows, what will you focus on?

Epiphanies usually occur after dramatic events. Something extraordinary or catastrophic happens and we wake from our slumber and make decisions to change our lives. Usually good choices, movement in a positive direction.

In the United States, 9/11 was one of those moments of opportunity. In the aftermath of such pain and shock, many people reassessed their lives. They deepened important relationships and walked away from superficial ones. Volunteerism and charitable donations reached an all-time high. There was a sense of togetherness and caring, a clear recognition that what unites us is more significant than what separates.

Yet now, six years later, the country seems worse than ever, more divided, more vitriolic, more hate-filled. Pointing the finger at particular individuals or situations only exacerbates the problem. As we approach Rosh Hashanah this year -- with the anniversary of 9/11 the day before -- I want to suggest an alternative perspective, and perhaps a way to move forward.

While dramatic events may indeed serve as wake-up calls, perhaps they are not the most effective tool for sustained learning and growth, for an ongoing journey with the Almighty.

The prophet Elijah (of Passover fame) learned this lesson in a showdown with the evil Jezebel. After a dramatic confrontation with idol worshippers and an ensuing frustrating lesson in the fickleness of crowds, Elijah ran away in despair to Mount Sinai. He searched for the voice of his Creator but it was not to be found booming through an earth quake or thundering through a storm. He heard instead a still small voice, the still small voice of the Almighty.

Yes, He may speak to us through tsunamis and hurricanes (and even a tornado in Flatbush), but we should be tuning our ears to listen to that small still voice.

We drown God out with all our chatter and activity.

If we keep shouting, if we keep waiting for open miracles, we'll miss His voice. We drown Him out with all our chatter and activity. But He's here; He's everywhere. In the sunrise and the cool morning breeze. In the newly blooming flowers outside my window (even in the ones still in the pots waiting for my recalcitrant gardener). In the happy shouts of children playing and in their tears of frustration. We're too busy working and waiting for the thunder and light show, we're too distracted by our phones and faxes and emails and multi-colored "berrys" to hear the Almighty's whisper. But He's speaking to us.

He's speaking in the beautiful full moon that rose over the outdoor concert hall. He's speaking through the fingers of the pianist and the eyes of the photographer.

We can hear a still small voice when we appreciate the bounty of fruits and vegetables available (my new favorite is the mango nectarine!), in the abundance on our tables, in the cool smooth taste of ice cream in the summer (and winter!).

It's that still small voice that reminds us how lucky we are to hear and see and think and move. To have husbands and wives and children and friends to love.

It's the voice that prods us to remember that we'll never be alone.

While we waste our time waiting for momentous life-changing events, the small ones are passing us by. We're too programmed for sensationalism. We're moving too fast.

There's a certain paradox to focusing the still small voice at Rosh Hashanah. After all, the shofar is not a shy and retiring mouthpiece. But when the shofar sounds its dramatic notes this year, instead of focusing on a moment of epiphany, instead of looking for an instant metamorphosis, I'm going to pray that I become more attuned, that I slow down, that I really take the time to listen more attentively to the still, small voice. That still small voice that is the ultimate Source of true love and true change.

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