Our Listening and Hashem’s Listening 

ראש השנה 
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Written by:
Rabbi Yehuda Chanales
Access editable doc with student handouts:

ברכה ראשונה

(10 minutes) 

(A little longer this time to set the stage for the limmud and because there is no parnasut this week)

 

1. מספר נוכחות- Instead of asking everyone to share their מספר נוכחות, ask students to rearrange where they are seated based on their מספר נוכחות with “1s” starting from your left and “10s” to your right. Quickly go around and have everyone say their number.

 

2. Setting the stage:

 

Ask students to: 

 

  1. Think of someone in their life who they would consider a “good listener” or think of a time when you were talking to someone and you really felt that they were listening. What were they doing? 
  2. Think of a time when you really needed someone to listen and they didn’t. What did they do? What didn’t they do?

 

Go around and ask everyone to fill in each blank with one idea

 

Being a good listener  means ___________________________________________ and a bad listener means _________________________________ . 

After everyone shares, ask: After hearing everyone’s answer, what do you think is the most important part of good listening? Why?

 

Take a few responses and then explain:

 

The ability to truly listen to someone else, to “hear” them, is one of the most fundamental skills in interpersonal relationships and personal growth. If we aren’t able to listen to our friends, colleagues, family members or teachers we lose the opportunity to deepen our relationships, learn from others, help them and help ourselves grow. 

 

As Jews, this is not just an important skill for our בין אדם לחבירו but also for our relationship with הקב”ה. If our mission as Jews is “אם שמוע תשמעו בקולי”- to listen to what Hashem wants from us- surely we can only do this properly if know how to listen for the “complete message”! 

 

Today we are going to have the opportunity to practice a skill called active listening. This is where you make an active, or conscious effort to not hear the words that a person is saying but the complete message being communicated. We will work on this skill listening to each other’s stories (which is also great practice for פרנסות!) and then consider what it means for ראש השנה and the special listening we are asked to do then. 

[Alternative/additional ברכה ראשונה “games” at the end of this document.]

לימוד ועבודה פנימית

(25 minutes)

 

Part 1: Active Listening Activity 

 

Divide students into groups of three. The teacher should call times listed below so students move through the different steps. 

 

1. In each group one person should take each of the following roles:  (2 minutes)

 

  • Person #1 [Presenter]- Shares a story by responding to the prompt: An emotional experience I had this week/summer/year was…
  • Person #2 [Listener] -Listens carefully to the content of the story. After #1 finishes, they will reflect back to the storyteller what they heard. 
  • Person #3 [Observer] - Listens (pays attention) to the non-verbal emotions, body language and tone of the storyteller. 

 

2. After #1 (Presenter), finishes their story: (5 minutes)

 

  • #2 (Listener) should reflect back to the storyteller what they heard. Ask- did I hear you properly? 
  • #2 (Listener)  should ask: Tell me more about…
  • #3 (Observer) should share what they noticed

 

3. After the first round, the teacher should tell students to switch roles and go through the process again. This time, however, the listener should make sure to make eye contact with the person sharing their story and use their own body language to indicate that they are listening (without saying anything!) (7 minutes)

 

Reflection: 

Bring the group back together and ask: 

As presenter, what did the listener do that made you feel like she was truly listening?

As listener, what was challenging for you? What was easy? 

As the observer, what did you notice about the presenter and listener? 

 

Script about listening and the power of listening. Tendency when people talk to jump in and think about ourselves. Being sincerely curious about what someone else is saying. 

 

Part 2: Connecting to Rosh Hashana

 

Introduction: On Rosh Hashana, the primary mitzvah of the day is listening to the sounds of the Shofar - שמיעת קול שופר. On one hand, the Shofar is meant to serve as a wake up call- inspiring us to pay more careful attention to our lives and how we would like to improve. At the same time, Shofar is a form of tefillah and represents our crying out to Hashem to listen to our requests and help us in the coming year. 

 

  1. Ask students to write individual responses to the following questions for themselves.
  2. What do you want Hashem to hear, to notice, to pay attention to this Rosh Hashana?
  3. How can you listen better?
    For younger students- To friends, other people? For older students-       How can you listen better to what Hashem wants from you?
  4. When I hear the Shofar this Rosh Hashana I want to think about listening more to________  in my life.

ברכה אחרונה

Bring the group back together and them to respond to the final  prompt: [ideally go around and have everyone respond, if you run out of time ask for a few volunteers]

 

When I hear the Shofar this Rosh Hashana I want to think about listening more to________  in my life.

Alternative/Additional ברכות ראשונות:

 

Choose one of the following “games” based on what you think will work best for your class. The goal is to start to heighten awareness of listening to others carefully.

 

1. Play a game of broken telephone - Go around the circle and ask each student, one at a time, to whisper a word into the ear of the student sitting next to them. The person next to them should choose a different word that they associate with the word they heard and whisper it into the ear of the person sitting next to them. At the end, the first person should say their word and the last person should say theirs. Then (if the class is not too large) you can go around and have everyone quickly say their word. 

 

2. Play “I’m going to and I’m taking…”. Each student, one at a time, should fill in the sentence: “I’m going to shul/eat on Rosh Hashana and I’m taking…”. Each person that goes after the first one should repeat everything that was said before them and then add their own thing. 

 

3. Play a storytelling game- Challenge the group to co-create a story. Each person must take whatever has been told before them and add their own sentence to it. The teacher should start the story- “I was getting ready for Rosh Hashana and…”

 

After any of the activities, the teacher should ask: What was challenging about that activity? What does this game teach about how we listen to and hear others?

 

What does it feel like to be heard? 

 

Download with student handouts:
Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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