On the New Year we learn to pay closer heed to the words we speak, their impact on others and the subtle messages our words convey. As we listen more acutely to the call for help from others, we also take upon ourselves the duty to respond in a timely manner and rally around those in need.
Next week, I am sponsoring a group of Israelis and Palestinians to spend a few weeks in a small village in southern France with a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. These two disparate groups of people do not know each other, but often feel hatred toward each other. Some of them have been hurt in the war.
But by the end of the two weeks, under the guidance of the monks, the Israelis and the Palestinians will learn to listen to, understand, forgive and maybe even like each other. They will be at peace.
Could this work on a larger scale for their respective countries? I think so.
The word shema (listen) appears in its various forms in Parshat Va'etchanan 23 times. And to top it all off, the "Shema" prayer is also included.