“Are We Hearing Voices?” (POEM)

It is a mystery
why humanity
whispers, calls, or cries out,
from the halls of history-
vocal folds modulating and blowing wind forward,
voice-waves carrying through time,
hopefully into ears of the living.

A mystery the living call memory

It is a mystery
why the living speak
to those who are not yet alive,
the generations God once promised to Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar-
the pre-living, who are up next,
whose turn it will be to listen,
whose turn it may be to speak.

A mystery the once-living call hope.

But there is a crisis in the conversation.
a golden calf, a social virus that threatens both memory and hope:
Not all the living listen.
Some don’t think to,
Some tune in and choose to ignore,
Some suffer from attention-to-memory deficit disorder-
there are more minor matters on their mind.
Even those who listen often don’t know why.
Why should we hear?
Why should we hear the voices of our past?
Why should we heed what we hear from the voices of our past?

It is both miracle and mystery that we have hope in our history.
Through breaths of whisper, call, and cry,
their sounds are ceaseless.
But I can think of no other reason
for people to send sound waves through time
than to deliver this urgent message.

Know deceit when you hear it and speak truth.
Know evil when you see it, and do good.
Know hate when you feel it, and make love.

Do you hear them?
Do you know how they hope to be heard?
If you do, then you know that one day you will join them,
that your voice will sound among theirs.
Just as you hear voices, among those waves your voice too will sound.

How do you hope to be heard?
How do you hope to be remembered?
As one who whispers, calls, or cries out?
As one who is true, good, and loving?
Are you ready to make noise?

Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath and Abraham Joshua Heschel marching, Torah in hand, with Dr. King
About the Author
Matthew Soffer is the Senior Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, where he leads the social justice efforts, practicing congregation-based community organizing with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). Matt serves on the Advisory Council of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, the Board of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, and the Rabbinic Council of Hand-in-Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel.