Everest Haxhi: Judaism; A Hearing Religion
E diele, 28.03.2010, 12:11 PM
Judaism: A Hearing Religion
By Everest Haxhi
“To hear a learned rabbi expound the Torah, and then to read a rationalist appraisal of Judaism, is a little like the descent from hearing a Mozart opera to reading the next day's criticisms”
Judaism is the religion that mostly emphasizes in the importance of “hearing” than on “seeing”. Religions like Hinduism or Christianity are visual ones. Emphasizing on “hearing” is the core of Judaism. From the origins, their patriarchs and prophets have been teaching God’s will from generation to generation. Besides being part of traditional Judaism, “hearing” had served to this religion as an instrument of survival. Torah readings and the interpretations of sacred books, made by rabbis, give the traditional outlook to this religion, mostly based on the heard sacred messages that have been guiding Jews communities throughout millenniums. The “hearing” related to spirituality, and “seeing” as a physical concept, have been center of debates in Judaism religious world. Most of great rabbis agree that the acceptance of “hearing” is the true test of faith, giving to Judaism originality and some kind of traditional spirituality. Judaism is perceived in everyday’s life of the community, reflecting a personal relationship that every Jewish has with the Lord. This private, personal dialogue that takes place every moment and in all levels is a continuous process of transforming the perception of “hearings” in a physical concept.
It has been argued that Judaism is the religion that mostly emphasizes the importance of “hearing” than on “seeing”. Other religions like Hinduism or Christianity are very visual ones. Emphasizing on “hearing” is the core of Judaism. From the origins their first patriarchs, prophets, and later on the rabbis, have been teaching the God’s will to generations beginning with the word - “Hear”.
In Holy Books, especially in the New Testament, there is a complex relation between seeing and hearing, but all of Holy Scriptures give precedence to hearing over seeing. When Thomas wanted to see the risen Lord, he was told that "...Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe...” (John 20; 29) Also,” Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ...”(Romans 10; 17). Judaism being conservative in preserving the main core of what is commanded by God try to focus on hearing that they believe is also a way to test their faith.
The emphasizing of “hearings”, besides being part of traditional Judaism, has served to this religion as an instrument of survival. After Jews people have been scattered throughout the region in Mediterranean countries and
Rabbis were teachers and founders of rabbinic Judaism, but also throughout specific liturgical prayers they were able to spread the message and create a strong religious structure. The main focus was the Torah readings and interpretations of sacred books, made by rabbis. Hearing the Torah from older and much respected rabbis was the main purpose of gathering of the community on the synagogues. The voice of the teacher (rabbi), heard carefully, was considered as a spiritual connection to better understand the covenant with Lord:
“A voice as soft as the feather is light. Call across the distance to those out of sight. From every corner of the earth that knows the wind. Angels gather quickly and on us descend. Celestial beings through which God's love flows, He sends us his angels when we need them the most.” (Hearing God’s Whisper: Angels in Judaism)
The importance of hearing rather than seeing as a physical concept, it has been the center of debates in the Judaism religious world. Most of great rabbis agree that from the moment that Torah was given in
Other rabbis believe that both levels are vitally important, spiritual and physical. Physical is more related to visual and how we visualize the spiritual connection that we have with the Lord.
“We have the ability, to grasp spirituality and hang on to it on a daily basis; equally importantly we have the obligation of taking that G-dliness and introducing it into physicality. We learn the laws of not stealing, for example, and introduce them into our daily business activity; we take the mitzvos and with them override everyday life’s temptations, digging them into the soil of our successes”. (Kremnizer, R. The Curtain Parted. Sichos in English Pub.)
Emphasizes on hearing in Judaism is perceived in the everyday life of the community and the personal relationship that every Jewish has with the Lord. This private, personal dialogue that takes place every moment and in all levels is a continuous process of transforming the perception of hearing in a physical concept. According to rabbi Yishmael, the amazing aspect of Torah is that we are empowered to take physicality and make from that physicality, God lines! We saw what was normally seen and it is our task to convert that into teachings.
“We heard what was normally heard and it is our job to bring that down into physicality” (Kremnizer, 1996).
Another aspect of “hearing”, considered as one the pillars of the faith, is the role of the messengers. This important role performed by angels, chosen by God to deliver the message, emphasized the delivering of voice messages. Those messages were heard by prophets, patriarchs or matriarchs in specific situations and critical events, serving as guide for the entire community. Hearing the voice of salvation was not only considered as a sign of the continuity of the covenant Jews had with the Lord, but also it served the purpose of consolidating the religion.
Judaism has gone through a very difficult path. From dispersion, persecutions and even lack of religiosity (Fisher, 2005), their survival has required a strong religious, conservative approach, and by accommodating changes that did not harm the core of religion. Emphasizing on hearing and preserving the Torah from generation to generation throughout teachings and rituals, Judaism was conserved and survived, impacting the everyday life of the Jews community in the world.
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Kremnizer, L., R. (1996). The Curtain Parted: Glimpsing The Week Ahead. Bereishis – Shemos. S.I.E. Publisher.
Wouk, H. (2009, March 18). Judaism: A Faith of Waves and
Particles. Retrieved from ChabadStanford.org database:
Mandelberg, R. (2007, October 26). Hearing God’s Whisper: Angels
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