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Creating the Silence

May 2, 2018 | by Sarah Pachter

By cutting out distractions we can hear our inner voice that longs for connection.

When God gave the Jewish people the Torah at Mount Sinai, the entire world became silent (Shemos Rabbah 29:9). The wind stopped blowing, no animals made a sound, and every human being stopped speaking. Why? Was God afraid the Jews would not be able to hear his voice? Surely He could have caused His voice to resonate over all of the natural sounds of the world, and would that not have made the greatest impression of all?

God silenced the noise so we could hear the voice within ourselves – the voice that longed for a spiritual connection, the voice that longed for His Torah.

We are constantly bombarded with distractions. Silencing it all, even momentarily, becomes nearly impossible.

I once asked a student who was feeling stressed to take one minute that week to stop and think of nothing – a minute of meditation and silence. She couldn’t do it. The distractions were too great.

Judaism is not a religion; it’s a relationship. Through the silence at Sinai, God was showing us a key to maintaining our relationship with Him, others, and even ourselves. Listen. Listen to the inner voice of your soul that quietly urges you to connect.

Best-selling author and psychologist, John Gottman, created a study that observed couples interacting in their natural setting. After one week of observation, Gottman was able to determine which couples would divorce and which would stay married with 94% accuracy.

The arguments about finances or kids were irrelevant to his predictions. The key was whether or not the couple turned toward what he calls each other’s “bid” for attention. For example, a couple is sitting at the breakfast table while the husband is looking at his phone. His wife gazes out the window and suddenly turns to him and says, “Look honey, a hummingbird. It’s gorgeous!” At that moment the husband has a choice: will he look up at his wife or continue to look down at his phone?

Choosing to silence his distraction, look up, acknowledge his wife and enjoy the small moment together nurtures her need for closeness and connection. The hummingbird is irrelevant; he is turning towards her bid for attention.

Gottman explains that each time we answer one another’s “bid,” it is an opportunity for closeness. When we ignore the bid and continue to be distracted, we lose the opportunity for closeness. This is true for all relationships.

Distractions are innocuous things that can hold big consequences. How often have we promised ourselves that when our kids get home from school we will keep our phone off until they go to sleep? Inevitably, the device gets pulled out because we have to look up a recipe, or a child wants to use the phone to call a friend. The next thing we know we are answering all the texts and emails and ignoring the kids.

Silence stops everything and enables us to think, to make good decisions that allow us to connect. This Shavuot may we tap into the power of silencing distraction in order to connect. May the Almighty give us the strength to sit in the silence and listen to our gentle inner voice so that we can make good decisions and forge our best personal path.

May this article be a iluy nishmat for Yehudit Sharon bat Miriam.

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