Thursday, April 30, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh – Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim
12 Iyar 5775/ May1, 2015
28th day of the Omer - Pirkei Avos – Chapter 3

Recently, a close friend of mine, who is a member of the board of his shul, recounted to me his surprise with the behavior of a fellow congregant. His shul is in middle of a renovation which will enhance and beautify the shul. A congregant angrily approached him and began droning on about how upset he is with the new project for various reasons. My friend couldn’t understand the congregant’s senseless ranting.
I related to my friend a wise piece of advice that a rabbinical colleague once conveyed to me: Many people try to assert their opinion at the office but their boss tells them to pipe down and get back to work. Then they come home at the end of the day and try to assert themselves at home, whereupon their wives put them back in their place. So these people who have a stifled need from some level of authority and are desperate to assert themselves somewhere, come to shul and yell, scream, and carry on over inane things, which most people (including the person himself) normally could care less about. [Personal disclaimer: Although I understand the wisdom of this statement, I cannot relate to it, because in our shul – Kehillat New Hempstead – no one ever vents or gripes about anything. It’s as if there’s a cloud of blissful peace that descends upon everyone who walks through the door of the shul. It probably has something to do with the rabbi.]
I also told my friend that at times when people are carrying on to me about something I contemplate whether the conversation is really about me or about the person himself. Sometimes it becomes clear that the person criticizing me or lambasting me needs to do so for his own sense of validation.
When I realize that, it becomes easier to listen to his words unemotionally. I feel I am doing a chesed by listening to him and telling him I appreciate his suggestions about how awful my derasha was or why the shul should totally change its direction as per his suggestions. [Again this is all theoretically speaking from what I heard occurs in other shuls.]
Every person needs to feel valued and appreciated. Listening to someone is therefore a truly great chesed. In a certain sense it is giving them validation.
Spouses have an added responsibility to be there for each other, in a way that no one else can. The same certainly holds true for children. Sometimes it’s far easier to “be there” for everyone else, than it is to be there for our most loved ones. If we are able to remember how valuable listening and being there it becomes easier to do so.
Those who solicit funds for tzedakah note that there was a time when people would give time even though they wouldn’t necessarily give a lot of money. Today however, people are far quicker to give money as long as they don’t have to give time.
In our world, time and attention, as well as love and validation, are far more valuable and rare commodities than money.
Do a chesed today: Listen to a ranting neighbor or friend, or better yet to a venting spouse or child.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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