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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayishlach

Parshat Vayishlach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Vayishlach
14th of Kislev, 5778 | December 2, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Avrum Mordche Malach
Always a Shepherd

Every once in a while, the king would traverse the countryside and take stock of the lives of his loyal subjects. He would inquire as to their wants and needs and listen to their burdens and problems.

On one occasion, he chanced upon a simple shepherd. The shepherd was modest and unassuming, yet assiduous, industrious and faithful to the king. After observing him for some time, the king was particularly impressed. The shepherd spared no time taking care of his responsibilities and diligently attending to his flock. And so, the king decided to appoint him as his advisor.

Within no time, the king confirmed the humble shepherd’s prudence and knack for strategic planning. Within a year, so much had been accomplished that the king deemed it worthy to even further promote the old shepherd and now current advisor to the post of chief financial officer. There too, the shepherd’s acumen shone forth and proved to be time and again an indispensable source of sound advice and management.

But, as time progressed, and the townsfolk began to pick up on just how far the once familiar shepherd had gone in his relationship to the king and royalty, they began to grow jealous.
Deliberating together, they contrived a plan which would undermine the gentleman’s integrity and deem him worthy of being ousted from his position.

Slandering the financial advisor, they attempted to expose him as a fraud who discreetly pocketed large royal funds and withheld due payments to the treasury. The king, knowing his advisor well and trusting him, refused to hear of such news. He could not believe that such a responsible and kind man would deceive the king in any way. But as the days passed and more and more information as to the advisor’s mishandlings leaked in, the king began to grow uneasy. “Just maybe he is not what I assumed him to be…” wondered the king. And so, an investigation was launched, attempting to uncover some sort of misappropriation which would put an end to the advisor’s career and high position.

Taking a number of his close officials to the home of the advisor, they began to search the grounds. But nothing appeared to be out of place. The home was modest-looking and no trace of secretive planning was detected. Until they arrived at the man’s basement, which contained a small, padlocked room with a taped sign which read, “Do not enter.” The ministers turned to the king in eager suspicion and curiosity. The king, now suspicious himself, pulled aside the advisor. “Could you please tell me, why is there a sign on this door barring all entry?” The advisor paused. “Your majesty, please leave me at least a small degree of privacy and dignity and do not enter this room. I used it for private purposes.” This only aroused the king’s interest even further.

In the name of maintaining royal integrity, the king had little choice than to order his guards to break down the door and expose the advisor’s fraudulent work. But, as soon as they opened it, nothing of the sort was discovered. All that was found in the room was a pair of shepherd clothing hanging on the wall. The king buried his eyebrows in confusion. “What’s this?” he asked. The advisor was silent for a moment, quite hesitant to reveal the story behind the simple and worn-out clothing which hung before them all. But, with no other resort, he went on to explain.

“Allow me to tell you, your honor. Over the past two years, I have gone from being a lowly shepherd to being your right-hand financial advisor. I never believed I would rise to such a position of prestige, and I stand in awe and appreciation of having the opportunity to serve you. That being so, I never wish to forget my past and recognize from where I came. I have therefore held onto my shepherd clothing for all these years and put them on every day to remind myself of my privilege to serve you. I never want to overlook your graciousness and forget who I once was and who I am now.”

The king could not believe it. The advisor was not only honest and loyal, but he was appreciative and awed by his honored position. When the king realized this, he was only more impressed by the advisor and immediately promoted him to an even higher position.

Human nature is to attribute one’s successes to themselves. We are led to believe “Kochi v’otzem yadi,” “it is my strength and the power of my hand,” which brings about victory and accomplishment. In truth, however, while our input is necessary to achieve that which we strive for and we should take pride in our achievements, we must never forget from whence we came.

Similar to the shepherd who slowly proceeded to higher and higher positions, yet never overlooked his past, the same is true for us all. Whatever accomplishments we obtain should not be taken for granted, but appreciated and valued as privileged opportunities from Hashem and avenues capable of promoting and providing greater goodness and beneficence to others.

In this vein, notes Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch, Shabbos is referred to as “Zecher L’yetzias Mitzrayim,” a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. What correlation is shared between Shabbos and leaving Egypt? As the Jewish people departed Egypt, they recognized Hashem’s greatness as seen through the many miracles performed and fully internalized that only He runs the world and ensures our success in life. Similarly, Shabbos reminds us that Hashem created the world and continues to micromanage all its affairs down to the most minute detail. The Exodus from Egypt and day of Shabbos thus point to the same concept: Hashem runs the world and is in charge of all that occurs on every level of creation.

As we move throughout our lives, it only behooves us to appreciate from where we have come and how far we have gotten and understand that the gap between those two points was bridged only with the help of Hashem. Our royal clothing should be set against the backdrop of our shepherd clothing. When this becomes our attitude in life, all that we have in life comes into focus as a gift and opportunity to better serve our families, our communities and ultimately the true King of Kings, our Father in Heaven.

Rabbi Shimon Gruen
The Art of Communication

Communication is something that we as people constantly engage in. Yet, while it may occupy a large part of our everyday lives, there is most certainly an art to it. Meaningful, deep and real communication is something which takes forethought and deliberation. And especially when it comes to relationships and marriage, mastering communications skills becomes an art of paradigm importance.

The Chovos HaLevavos writes that everything created in this world was created for a good purpose. Every trait and quality can be channeled and utilized for the good. For some characteristics, it is easy to define and discern its positive use and application. For others, however, it is quite challenging. What good use, for example, does sheker, falsehood or deceit, serve? In what way can it be directed in a beneficial and useful way?

The Chovos HaLevavos explains that so-called “sheker” can be used to avoid hurting another’s feelings. In example, if you don’t like something about another individual, it is sometimes better to avoid pointing out the truth and being upfront and straightforward at the expense of being insulting.

In marriage, particularly, as important as is knowing what to say, it is equally important to know what not to say. Communication does not mean that everything which comes to mind must be said. Good communication sometimes requires that no communication occur. If it is not the right time or place or it will be hurtful, it is better not to say anything at the moment.

At the same time, sometimes not communicating and remaining silent can be misused and manipulated. In colloquial terms, society refers to this as “the silent treatment.” One spouse subliminally hints that they don’t wish to communicate and deliberately gives the other the “cold shoulder” and acts aversive and avoidant. It is often rationalized for one of two reasons. Either the spouse is very upset and is afraid that what they will say will be misconstrued and cause only more dissonance. Alternatively, the individual is so hurt that they cannot face their spouse and talk about the issue at hand.

However, despite any justification, this lack of communication is oftentimes less than helpful. If done often enough, it can even become a habitual manner of communication and when something upsetting occurs between husband and wife, they naturally avoid speaking to one another. In place of this, however, there is another, perhaps more effective way of dealing with matters of conflict which arise.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:9-10) states that when Korach, who rebelled against Moshe and Aharon in an attempt to overthrow them as leaders of the Jewish people, actually heard Moshe’s rationale for their appointment of leadership, he understood. However, he did not respond in any which way to Moshe and enter into a conversation for he realized that were he to do so, Moshe would thoroughly convince him and win him over. Korach would have no choice than to acquiesce to Moshe’s role as leader and accept it. In order to avoid this from occurring, he evaded confronting Moshe at all costs.

Likewise, notes the Midrash, when Moshe summoned Dasan and Aviram with the hope of appealing to them and ending the debacle, they too refused to speak to Moshe. This frustrated Moshe, says the Midrash, for “when one person enters into an argument with his friend and his friend replies, the person is satisfied; however, when the friend does not respond, the person is pained.”

As clearly articulated in the Midrash, when there is some sort of scuffle or disagreement between two people, addressing the issue at hand and not giving the “cold shoulder” or the “silent treatment” is most beneficial. Avoiding the problem will not solve it, but merely allow it to remain and fester. By facing the proverbial elephant in the room and engaging in a heart to heart dialogue about the presenting problem, both parties are in better position to reach mutual agreement and understanding.

Now, you may be wondering if there is anything to do if, for one reason or another, you or your spouse are simply not in the mood to talk about the conflict right now. Is there anything else that can be done? The answer is yes. If either you or your spouse are overly tense or stressed or simply feel that now is not the time and place to discuss the matter, tell them that. Very gently and considerately, say, “I don’t feel that I can discuss this right now. Is it okay with you if we do so later?” There is a way of engaging in conversation and openly communicating about the issue, but at the same time, not really doing so.

Do not ignore the issue, but tell your spouse that you wish to speak about it at a later date. Make up a time that works for you both and schedule it. Otherwise, both husband and wife feel as if they are walking on eggshells and it is only cause for angst and frustration. It may not be easy to follow this protocol, but it is one way of addressing the issue and not ignoring it even if you are not in the right frame of mind at the moment.

Moreover, it is also important to be cognizant of how you respond to something. Whether it be responding to a negative or sensitive comment or a previous argument, it is wisest to be calm, and speak briefly and to the point. Of note, Bill Eddy, developer of High Conflict Personality (HCP) theory and noted author, suggests that respondents to situations of conflict incorporate four elements into their rejoinder: BIFF. It should be brief, informative, friendly and firm. Stick to the point you wish to address and don’t go on tangents and bring ancillary issues into the conversation. In addition, make sure you are not merely babbling, but have something of substance to say. As well, be careful that your tone of voice and words do not come across as hurtful, but rather respectful, polite and friendly. At the same time, ensure that your point gets across. Temper your friendly response with a healthy dosage of surety and confidence in yourself.

While the words which are expressed are of utmost importance when it comes to marriage, when they are said and how they are said are no less vital. It may take time to learn the art of how to do so, but so long as we are motivated to continually work at it, we are in perfect position to enjoying a blissful marriage for many years to come.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser

As we are all familiar, one of the most fundamental tenants of Judaism is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In truth, as underlined by this principle, a person is only capable of loving another as much as they love themselves. We typically think that there is one aspect of loving and appreciating ourselves and a second aspect of loving others. Our love towards others is a separate, adjunct feeling which is unassociated with our own feelings for ourselves. But, in truth, it is commensurate to our own self-love that we can project this love onto others. Why is this so?

It is for the same reason that we feel a natural draw and warmth towards others who take interest in us. In essence, all relationships are symbiotic. How a person makes us feel and how we make them feel brings us closer and cements our bond. If the person we encounter makes us feel validated, valued and worthy, they are inflating our self-love, providing us with greater well-being and enabling us to appreciate ourselves. When that occurs, we are in position to reciprocate that feeling of care and concern and mutualize that synergy. That is why we feel more attracted to people who make us feel good about ourselves, and we wish to give back to them and make them feel good as well.

In the same way, when we validate and value ourselves, we are filling ourselves up with self-love and are then capable of extending this love to others. But, at the very heart of it all, what we have is what we can give. The more we love ourselves, the more love we can give to others. It starts with us, and from there filters to our friends, families, communities and Hashem.

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