It's connected to the haftarah when, with the best of intentions, Shaul Hamelech did not follow Hashem's Directive to the fullest.
King Shaul was supposed to annihilate Amalek to the last.
(Had he done so, there would've been no Nazis, no Hitler yemach shemo, and so on.)
This particular directive included the instruction to destroy their animals, partly because Amalek was into the occult (just like the Nazis) and used deceptive illusions to make themselves look like an ox (Shmuel I:15:3, Rashi).
And when Shmuel Hanavi said, "And what is this bleating of the sheep in my ears? And the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" (Shmuel I:15:14), Shaul explained that the people spared the sheep and the oxen to offer sacrifices to Hashem.
And Shmuel Hanavi replied, emphasizing: "Behold, to hear [obey] is better than a peace-offering; to listen [is better] than the fat of rams" (Shmuel I:15:22).
Shaul Hamelech also didn't kill King Agag of Amalek immediately, which enabled the seed of Amalek to continue to this day. (Shaul Hamelech killed him the day after, but by then King Agag was able to impregnate someone.)
And by not listening, by not obeying Shaul forfeited his kingship.
Yes, Shaul in his greatness immediately admitted his mistake and repented for it. He begged forgiveness. Despite his lofty kingship, he was an exceedingly humble person.
But it was too late.
The royal line passed to David ben Yishai, a rejected red-headed young shepherd of questionable lineage, who spent his time singing Tehillim to Hashem and occasionally fighting off ferocious animals in the fields.
So the first thing we need to do is hear.
Korbanot are The Best
He acknowledges that the idea bothers many people today (as it once really bothered me too), but that's due to a misunderstanding & preening propaganda.
Rav Miller explains on page 5:
Now, I understand that the modern world has been propagandized and bamboozled by the gentile writers who have belittled offerings.
The truth is that they have done it for their own benefit, for the greater glory of the substitute religion.
So they say that Judaism was a bloody religion – a religion of slaughtering and sacrifice – and it was only when oso ha’ish, that man, came along and began preaching a religion of love, that’s when the world became better.
He introduced a new religion of love that disdains the offerings!
A new religion where instead of slaughtering cattle, from now on you slaughter Jews.
That’s what they’ve been doing for the last two thousand years after all – they’ve slaughtered Jews like cattle.
But korbanos? Oh no; never!
And therefore, the Kohanim in charge of the korbanot needed to have one of their most important facets dedicated first & foremost to Hashem: their ear.
In Praise of Ears & Using Them Wisely
For example, isn't it nice that our ears are near our mouths and not by our knees? Can you imagine how inconvenient it would be if, in order to hear better, we'd need to pick up our knees closer to a person's mouth or if the other person would need to bend over to speak to our knees in order to whisper something in our ear?
Thank You, Hashem!
Anyway, I learned some new things about the workings of ears, and am certainly more grateful for them than I was before I read this.
And now that we're so grateful for our ears, we need to be more aware of how we use them?
What are we putting into our ears?
This question is both literal & figurative.
What are we literally listening to? What are we allowing ourselves to be influenced by?
And what are we obeying?
Are we really listening to Hashem?
Here's a double-whammy from Rav Miller on pages 12-13:
You have to utilize your ears chiefly to hear Torah.
And Torah means everything.
It means Shulchan Aruch. It means halacha. It means dinim. It means mishnayis and gemara.
These are elementary things – it goes without saying – but if you want to listen to the Torah so you learn everything; Torah, nevi’im, kesuvim, everything you have to learn.
If you don’t learn nevi’im and kesuvim it’s like taking the bran out of the wheat.
Just white bread you’ll eat? It’s not nourishing.
You need Mishlei, you need Iyov, you need everything. You need it.
And if you can’t read it in lashon kodesh, I urge you to read it in English at least.
Isn’t that queer advice? No, it’s not queer at all. If you have no time to learn Tanach so read it in English at least. Find out what it’s all about!
You never read Ezra in your life?! You mean to say you’re going to go your whole life without reading Ezra? How could you do such a thing? A newspaper you’ll read, but Ezra you won’t read?! Even if you read a frum newspaper, so you’ll skip Ezra and Nechemia for a frum newspaper?
At least once you should read Ezra and Nechemia. Read it in English! Why not?
“I’ll get around to it someday,” he says.
When he’ll be 199 years old in the old age home – he thinks he’ll still be there; so that’s when he’ll get around to it.
Hearing Criticism Constructively Even When It's Not Meant to be
Rav Miller acknowledges that today, criticism is considered the worst thing in the world.
(And it's true that criticism can destroy people; there's the concept of ona'at devarim and so forth.)
But Rav Miller encourages us to look at criticism as diamonds.
He explains that a wife might actually be telling a husband the truth about himself, and he should listen, but he brushes her off. Yet really, he should listen.
This is obviously not Rav Miller's own idea. (Just like it wasn't Rav Shalom Arush's own idea when he first starting promoting this concept.)
It's from Shaarei Teshuvah 2:11.
Rav Miller recalls the time a homeless bum said something unkind to Rav Miller as Rav Miller innocently passed him by on the street. And Rav Miller remembers every word, and took it to heart as constructive criticism.
It's very good to read his own words on this topic, pages 13-15.
Beware the Leitz!
A leitz is often translated as a mocker. Malbim defines letz as one who just shoots the wind, mindless chatter.
Rav Miller emphasizes that a leitz isn't a wicked person. He's a wise-cracker.
If you're an idealistic person, a leitz can cut you off at your knees.
Here's Rav Miller on page 17:
And therefore it’s of the utmost necessity to keep away from shallow and foolish people.
Now it doesn’t mean only people who murder or people who are michalilei Shabbos.
It means people who aren’t interested in living lives of idealism, people who disdain the attitude of being mivakeish shleimus [a person who seeks to perfect himself].
As long as you’re sitting here you’re okay.
But once you walk out the door you have to be very careful with your ears. Unless maybe you take along the tapes and they’re glued to your ears until next Thursday night – otherwise it’s dangerous out there.
Once we understand that the ear must be dedicated to avodas Hashem, we begin to understand how important this tunnel to the mind really is.
This means that we need to dedicate our ears to Hashem's Service too.