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Mishlei: The Wisdom To Hear

It’s called Imago Therapy: The core practice of Imago therapy is the “Couple’s Dialogue,” in which a couple engages in a structured conversation, with or without an Imago Therapist.

The Couple’s Dialogue consists of Mirroring (repeating) each statement, Summarization, Validation (“That makes sense because …”) and Empathy (“I imagine that makes you feel …”). This enables each partner to extend themselves to understand the experience of the other as different from their own.

There is a significant difference between hearing and listening. Imago is listening training. People are often not great at hearing each other, let alone at listening.

I literally spent hours considering my response to a series of questions from the lay leadership of a community about a serious communal issue. I offered, what I believe to have been, a well-structured response.  I began with a one sentence answer, “I think you should do..,” followed with a broad outline of my reasons and then carefully defined the issues and explained how they intersected.

I may have spent hours preparing, but the response was immediate: “It is clear that you spent a great deal of time considering our question and preparing your response. However, I disagree.”

That was it. He didn’t offer any reasons or arguments. He simply disagreed with my conclusion. He had waited for a different answer, and once he heard my opening statement, he stopped listening to what I was saying.

It’s not unusual for someone who requests my advice to argue with me even before I can explain or finish my sentence.

It’s not unusual for someone to feel obligated to immediately respond to what I say without allowing himself to pause and consider my words. (See “As A Parent To A Child.”)

It takes wisdom to hear, even more to listen. Shlomo Hamelech, after teaching us how to withstand the seductions of the Evil Inclination, now turns to instructing us to learn how to hear and listen:

“Wisdom sings out in the street; it gives forth its voice in the squares. It cries out at the head of noisy throngs, at the entrances of the gates, in the city, it speaks its words, ‘How long O simpletons will you love folly? Scoffers covet mockery for themselves, and fools hate knowledge. Return to my reproof! Behold, I will express my spirit to you. I will make my words known to you. But Because I have called you and you refused, because I stretched forth my hand and no one listened, and you rejected my every counsel, and desired not my reproof. I, too, will laugh at your misfortune and mock when your dread arrives. When your fear arrives as sudden darkness, and misfortune comes like a storm; when affliction and oppression come upon you, then they will call me, but I will not answer; they will search for me, but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:20-28)

We pay a steep price when we do not listen to wisdom when it speaks to us, for we become accustomed to ignoring Wisdom and we may not find it when we recognize that we need it. We must learn how to hear and listen to wisdom’s song and cries, and, reproof.

Learning Aloud
Practice listening to wisdom by learning aloud:

The Zohar (Volume 3 39a) instructs us to begin our listening lessons by listening to ourselves when studying the wisdom of the Torah: “One who toils in Torah and is attached to her, and the words of Torah are heard from his mouth in a loud voice, will raise his voice aloud in joyous song when he leaves this world and journey straight to the Source of Wisdom.”

The Zohar urges us to practice listening to the words of Torah that we study as a voice that will eternally accompany us. When we speak the words of wisdom aloud and listen to them, they become a great spiritual reality, and they are empowered with eternal existence. We have transformed both our speech and our listening into a unity that has a reality all its own.

We can experience Torah study as coming from one source to another, a conversation between teacher and student, wisdom and us, God and our souls. We will pay more attention to Wisdom and we will learn how to recognize her song and cries, and we will hear her instruction when we are desperate for wisdom.

The first step in learning how to listen: When we study aloud we are not listening to ourselves but to the song of wisdom. We should focus on what we hear Wisdom saying and listen to her message. We should not focus on the words we read, but on the Wisdom we hear.

To Be Continued

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