June 24, 2009

3 min read


Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

Moses came down from the mountain after receiving the Ten Commandments from God and heard a lot of noise coming from amongst the Jewish people. This was right after the Jews had built the Golden Calf, so Joshua, who was right next to Moses, interpreted the noise as people shouting. But Moses said:

"Not a sound shouting strength nor a sound shouting weakness; a sound of distress do I hear." (Exodus, 32:18)


When Moses heard the commotion he was able to ascertain immediately that the noise represented the sound of people in distress. How was Moses able to attach such a specific meaning to the shouting and know for certain what it meant?

The answer is that most people just hear what's being said. Others, such as Moses, take the time to actually listen to what's being said. There is a significant and monumental difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means that someone "hears" what's being said and then translates the message into a meaning for himself. When you listen, however, you also take an extra moment to think about the person who's speaking. It's only then that you'll have a clear understanding of what is trying to be conveyed.

Since Moses "listened" to the raucous coming from the Jewish people, he was able to add into the equation that the Jews had not seen their leader for 40 days and were certainly insecure, concerned, and stressed. It was then that Moses immediately knew that the noise was certainly not of gleeful shouting, but rather a sound of distress. Once he knew this, he was able to respond in a way that would have been drastically different if he only chose to "hear" the noise and not "listen" to it.

It's so important to go beyond the words you hear, and instead, listen to what's being said.

For example, when a mother "listens" to her baby cry, she knows right away if it's a cry of unhappiness, hunger, or tiredness. But anyone else who was simply "hearing" the same cry could never be able to discern what kind of cry it was. But since a mother "listens" to her baby, she will add more to the message than just the noise of crying and will instantly know how to react.

So when someone says something of importance to you, try to "listen" to him by taking the time to think about his personal circumstances. The same words said by one person can have a vastly different meaning when said by someone else. And by listening, you'll know just how to react and be able to give the person precisely what he needs.

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