Hearing With Our Brain

Purim is the Yom Tov during which we learn to listen. Hakadosh Baruch Hu talks to us all the time, yet not always do we listen. Purim is the time when we make a sea change in this area.

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, my wife was exposed to German measles. Unbeknownst to us at the time, our baby, Elisheva, was born with a hearing impairment. When we suspected that something was amiss, we went for testing at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. There we met the head of the department, a certain Dr. Vincent Hardy.

Dr. Hardy taught us that we do not actually hear with our ears. The ear is only a receptacle for receiving sound waves. These waves are later processed in the brain. We hear with our brain, not with our ears. (Baruch Hashem, our daughter Elisheva is now happily married to the son of Rabbi and Moshe Ebstein, z”l, founders of Hebrew Institute for the Deaf, with four wonderful children and, as of now, one grandchild.)

We have all either heard of or experienced cases of a baby crying at night. The mother hears the child and the father does not. Utilizing the concept explained by Dr. Hardy, we can understand that the explanation is not because the mother has better hearing. Rather, the mother has trained her brain to be alert to the child’s cries. The father, more likely than not, has trained his brain to ignore it.

The same phenomenon can be invoked to understand why people who live in Far Rockaway are actually not bothered by planes flying overhead. They live so close to Kennedy Airport that they have trained their brains to ignore these sounds. An occasional visitor, however, may, in all likelihood, not have trained himself to ignore these sounds and is thus rather surprised at how others can so readily ignore the noise.

A case in point: A certain gentleman was once locked out of his house late in the night. He knocked, banged and yelled his wife’s name — to no avail. With sudden inspiration, he had an idea. He went to the bedroom window and instead of crying out his wife’s name, he called out, “Mommy!”

She awoke instantly.

The Ribbono shel Olam talks and communicates to us all the time. All we have to do is teach our brains to hear His messages. Upon deeper reflection, we soon realize that the receptors are our eyes, ears and hands. We actually receive the words of Hakadosh Baruch Hu all the time, but we may not realize it. By reading the Megillah without Hashem’s name we learn how to detect the Yad Hashem even when it is not obvious.

There are some times, however, when the message just screams out and it is almost impossible not to hear. This past week there was just such a case.

Perhaps the poster children of the Shemittah campaign this past year were Doron and Ilana Tygg of Kfar Azarya. They were latecomers to the decision to keep the Shemittah k’hilchasa. Because they did not decide to keep it until after Rosh Hashanah, they had to a) forfeit a million-shekel contract, b) be mafkir over 50 tons of vegetables (which were distributed free of charge by Keren Hashviis) and c) ultimately destroy 25,000 eggplants that were planted in their hothouse after Rosh Hashanah.

Their tremendous mesirus nefesh was so impressive that many people took the advice of Rav Chaim Kanievsky and came to them for brachos. By the end of Shemittah, Ilana’s hadlakas neiros took over two hours as she diligently davened for more than 1,000 people who needed yeshuos.

During the month of Sivan, in the midst of the Shemittah cycle, the fourth grade of the Mishkenos Tamar School of Brachfeld in Modiin Illit came to visit Ilana Tygg’s farm. The staff of the school asked Ilana to daven for two teachers, each of whom had only one child. (One teacher’s child was 15 and the other’s was 5.) Ilana added their names to her list.

On Friday, Erev Shabbos Parashas Vayakhel / Shekalim, nine months later, the two teachers each brought a son into the bris of Avraham Avinu on the very same day. Ma nora maasecha Hashem.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu speaks to us all the time. We must use our brains to decipher the messages. Sometimes, however, the message is so crystal-clear that it is a no-brainer!


The author can be reached at rabbisbloom@gmail.com