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The first word of this week’s Torah portion, “Vayikra,” literally means, “And He called …” G-d is calling us – all the time. It’s up to us to tune in and listen.

The magnet at the check-out line at Whole Foods caught my attention. “After a long weekend without your phone, you learn what’s really important in life. Your phone.”   I snapped a picture – on my phone – intending to use it in an article some day lambasting our addiction and dependence on our cell phones. Today is that day, but I didn’t know it was really meant for me.  A few things drove me to tears recently, the silliest of which, and I am embarrassed to say, was that I lost my cell phone for two days.

I used to think that a cell phone was only for emergencies, and so I would just leave it in my car. This exasperated my family and friends no end, until I became well trained in having it by my side or on my person at all times. After I got used to being tethered to cyberspace, the sudden absence of my phone made me feel disoriented and disconnected, like an outsider to my own life. Among other things, what if someone were trying to reach me – right now – and couldn’t?

The first word of this week’s Torah portion, “Vayikra,” literally means, “And He called …” The caller in question is G-d, the listener is Moses, and G-d is informing Moses about the procedures for offering the various sacrifices in the Tabernacle. Rashi, the famous medieval commentator, pointed out that other people were in physical proximity to Moses and therefore, they should have been able to hear the voice of G-d just as well.   Since they weren’t spiritually attuned to “G-d’s frequency”, however, only Moses was actually able to hear G-d’s instructions.

Apologizing for the comparison, Rabbi Pinchas Winston explains this with the example of a dog whistle.   While the sound waves emitted from a dog whistle literally land on a human eardrum, unlike a dog, the human ear is not attuned to make sense of that frequency. There is no shame, however in not being able to hear a dog whistle; we are not meant to. Being able to “hear” the message of godliness, on the other hand, is our very spiritual mission.

Shema Yisroel – Hear O’ Israel”, is the Jewish mantra; hence our spiritual eardrums are designed to pick up G-d’s signal. There is so much “noise everywhere, however, so much distortion and interference, that it’s hard to pick up a clear signal. What can we do to make sure that when G-d is calling out to us, we don’t miss the call and we can hear the message?

Let’s start on a practical level and look at “noise reduction” in our lives. In one of my favorite go-to books, Before Happiness, which is a fantastic instruction manual for creating positive reality based on cognitive, intellectual and emotional resources, Shawn Achor discusses how noise is more than just a mere distortion, but that it blocks out the very signals that can point us towards positive growth.

Says Achor, in order to combat the noise, we need to do 3 things:

1.  Stop Our Addiction to Noise. Seeking to control the externals of my environment and reduce negativity, I stopped watching the “news.” I was getting a manicure the other day, however, and on the wall in front of me was a huge TV screen tuned to the news channel. In the center of the screen was the news anchor. Above his head was a split screen of two warring commentators, talking at the same time fighting to be heard. And below the screen was a running band of the latest horrors from around the world. The news at that moment (like most moments these days) was some scene of brutality and the video was played over and over and over again. It was like being in a 3-ring circus in hell.

My hands soaking in solution, I made a negative comment to the manicurist, and she offered to put on the cooking channel. Shamefully, I said, No, that’s OK”, curiously choosing to stay with my “manicure buzz-kill”, and I instantly understood that famous quote in Joseph Conrad’s book, Heart of Darkness – “The horror! The horror! The fascination of the abomination.” No doubt there is some quirky brain chemistry going on when we don’t turn away from what repels us, but our conscious brains rationalize it by thinking we need to be “in the know.” But what do we really “know” anyway as a result of all of this negative and horrible noise?

While our senses can receive billions of bits of information per second, our conscious brains process about 40 bits per second. Out of myriad possibilities, we choose which infinitesimal slice of reality we wish to perceive.   Says Achor:

We can choose either to hear negative, flawed, or irrelevant information or to absorb information that will help us to accomplish our goals. But because the amount we hear is limited, there is a trade-off; the more negative information we take in, the less positive signal we can hear, and vice versa.

A thought just occurred to me as I typed those words. It’s helpful to keep in mind that when we listen to gossip and negative judgments, we are using up and cluttering that tiny little bandwidth of reality we can access. If you can only utilize 40 bits per second, what do you really want to use them for?

Anyway, the good news is that studies in positive psychology and neuroscience have demonstrated that even a 5 percent reduction significantly improves our chances of picking up positive signals. I suggest you give some thought, if not on completely eliminating the noise pollution in your life, then just on reducing it by 5 percent. It can make a considerable difference.

2.  Cancel The Internal Noise. “Noise is any information that is negative, false, or unnecessary or that prevents you from perceiving a world in which success is possible.” But it’s not just the noise that’s “out there”. Have you listened to your own thoughts lately? You know that “voice”, the one that wears you down with its constant pessimism, self-doubt and negativity. It’s even more harmful than external noise because we don’t evaluate or challenge its validity and the effect of this voice is that it kills our positive potential. And so it basically undermines our reason for being. Learning strategies for reducing this internal noise, therefore, is critically important and will result in huge payoffs in all areas of your life.

Instead of trying to just silence or kill that voice, however, try understanding that the inner critic is, in its own way, really trying to protect you from some kind of harm, hurt or disappointment. The inner critic is a part of our psyche that we create for ourselves (usually in early childhood) that really seeks to serve us in its own (but misguided) way. Seeing it in that role is the first step in engaging it and working with it to come up with a better and more effective way to do its job. (Hint: you can’t criticize or shame your way to be worthy of love or to be beyond reproach.)

3. Recognize The Signal. Signal is information that is true and reliable and alerts you to the opportunities, possibilities, and resources that will help you reach your fullest potential.” How can we hear the voice of godliness today which is trying to help us reach our spiritual potential?   How does G-d speak to us anyway? When we stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, each and every person openly heard the voice of G-d. But that was a one-time event in history. It was a gift, and thereafter, we all have to earn it for ourselves.

But the nature of G-d’s open revelation was not just that it was a one-time event, but that it was loud. Really loud. Cataclysmically-overwhelming-to-the-psyche-loud.   In our Yom Kippur prayers, we read, “He will blow the Great Shofar; And a small thin voice will be heard.” If blowing the “Great Shofar” was akin to open revelation, what is the “thin small voice” that followed and which is said to still echo to this day, and how can we hear it?

In a beautiful article written by Rabbi Nissan Antin, he writes about an incident that occurred at that same spot 400 years later, when Elijah the Prophet was hiding in the desert. An angel appeared to the Prophet telling him to walk for “40 days and 40 nights” until he arrived at Mt. Sinai. All of a sudden, a powerful wind shattered the mountains, but the angel said, “G-d is not in the wind.” Then there was an earthquake, and the angel said, “G-d is not in the earthquake.” Then a fire, and again, the angel said, “G-d is not in the fire.” But after the fire, what emerged was a still, thin sound. And that is where G-d is to be found, the voice of G-d that never stopped whispering. Says Rabbi Antin:

Elijah is being taught that if you want to look for Hashem, don’t look in the spectacular, in the amazing, in the extraordinary. If you want to find Hashem, you have to listen to the still thin sound of the mundane day in and day out reality, you have to look for Hashem in the ordinary.

In a previous blog, Wholly Love, I had written how peak experiences are great in any relationship, but that it’s the day to day seemingly small and seemingly mundane acts – that are anything but – that really establish the relationship.   Without commitment to the “ordinary”, the “extraordinary” is but a flash, and has no lasting effect. The more “extraordinary” you make the “ordinary”, on the other hand, the more the extraordinary will actually become ordinary.

There is a saying that the reason people yell when they are angry is because anger disconnects people and thus, they have to yell to be heard “over the distance”. Love, on the other hand, brings us close, so close that the barest whisper is loud enough for us to hear the words of our beloved. If the “words of Torah are in our mouth to speak”, then the voice of G-d is surely in our ears to hear. The “small thin sound” then, is all around us, and within us.

Learn to distinguish between “noise” and “signal”. Stop the noise, at least by 5 percent. Choose your inner thoughts. Quiet your brain and your soul. Be present and open to the miracle embedded in every single moment. “And He called” means that G-d is calling us – all the time. It’s up to us to tune in and listen.

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Article by Hanna Perlberger

Hanna Perlberger, a former divorce lawyer who became a relationship and positive psychology coach, supports people in "living the life that they love with the love of their life". As a writer, teacher, and lecturer, her sweet spot is the intersection of Torah and Positive Psychology. For more information, please visit her website at Make The Best Of You or contact her directly at