Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Listen

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 4,8

HE [R. Ishmael] USED TO SAY: JUDGE NOT ALONE, FOR NONE MAY JUDGE ALONE SAVE ONE; AND SAY NOT ACCEPT MY VIEW’, FOR THEY ARE FREE BUT NOT THOU.

Henry Martyn Robert was an engineering officer in the regular Army. Without warning he was asked to preside over a public meeting being held in a church in his community and realized that he did not know how. He tried anyway and his embarrassment was supreme. This event left him determined never to attend another meeting until he knew something of parliamentary law.

There is nothing more exasperating than having a conversation with a person who refuses to hear your side. Robert’s rules of Order were established in order to give every person the opportunity to express their view. The problem is that still doesn’t insure that every person is heard.

In discussions and debates, alike, we often are planning our next rebuttal before the other has even had a chance to finish what they are saying. It means we aren’t listening. Our Mishna tells us there is great benefit in having an open mind. There is great value in hearing others’ opinions. If we are ever to be heard ourselves, we must be willing to listen.

  

Justifications and Excuses

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 4,7

ISHMAEL SAID: HE WHO REFRAINS HIMSELF FROM JUDGMENT, RIDS HIMSELF OF ENMITY AND ROBBERY AND VAIN SWEARING; BUT HE WHOSE HEART IS OVER-CONFIDENT IN GIVING A JUDICIAL DECISION, IS FOOLISH, WICKED AND OF UNCOUTH SPIRIT.

Simply put,we can justify almost anything. The creative capacity of the individual mind is unleashed to its fullest potential when we behave in a manner we find to be unacceptable. A person takes office supplies home and says to himself, they owe it to me. Or, I work long and hard and I don’t get paid what I am worth. On the other hand, when asked why you helped an elderly person across the street you can only muster, “because it is the right thing to do.”

We all make allowances. We wish we could have done better but we fall short. It happens. We are only human. Making excuses is the first step in the process of turning isolated circumstances into a pattern.

Just as we have grown capable of making excuses for behavior that less than admirable, we ought to learn to how to explain our behavior worthy of replication.

  

No One is Superfluous

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 4,6 

JOSE SAID: WHOEVER HONOURS THE TORAH IS HIMSELF HONOURED BY MEN, AND WHOEVER DISHONOURS THE TORAH IS HIMSELF DISHONOURED BY MEN.

In explaining this Mishna the Bartenura suggests that one who is able to see the value of the Torah in it’s intimate details, one who is prepared to find meaning in every letter, surely realizes there is nothing extraneous in the pages of our most sacred book.   The Bartenura (Obadiah ben Abraham (Hebrew: עובדיה בן אברהם מברטנורא) was born and lived in the second half of the fifteenth century in Italy; died in Jerusalem about 1500.) Offers us a magnificent comment. He reminds us there is nothing extra. God doesn’t make superfluous material. And if that is true of words it is most certainly true of people.

No one is superfluous.  If we can learn to read a text with such care and concern that we want to understand every nuance and every syllable, then we should be equally motivated to find the same value in our fellow human beings.  And when we do we will find the respect we have earned through the respect we have given.