Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Quiet Please

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 1.17

SIMEON, HIS SON, USED TO SAY: ALL MY DAYS I GREW UP AMONG THE SAGES, AND I HAVE FOUND NOTHING BETTER FOR A PERSON THAN SILENCE. STUDY IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, BUT DEED; WHOEVER INDULGES IN TOO MANY WORDS BRINGS ABOUT SIN.

We live in a world of people with a dire need to express themselves. We all want to be heard and we all desperately want to get the feelings out. The therapists in all of us beg for us to share so that we don’t keep things bottled up. I agree, but there is a step that must precede the talking.

As our Mishna suggests, we ought to take a minute to simply sit in quiet. Gather our thoughts.  Recognize the ramifications our words might have. Sometimes in the quiet we can dig deeper, we can understand more fully. If we jump right to speaking we may not have given ourselves the opportunity to understand the more true emotion in play.

Our Mishna continues, begging us to act. That action may be sharing a thought, an idea, a kindness. When we take a moment of silence to center ourselves, we become open to our world. We believe prayer is about the sounds that come out. I believe prayerful moments happen in silence as well. It is in those moments our hearts open and we are able to receive the gifts all around us.

  

Life Coach

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Avot 1:16
RABBAN GAMALIEL USED TO SAY: APPOINT A TEACHER FOR THYSELF AND AVOID DOUBT, AND MAKE NOT A HABIT OF TITHING BY GUESSWORK.

We all need life coaches. We can’t do it alone. It is easy to lose perspective and begin to second-guess ourselves and the choices we have made. Because the task of being human requires introspection, something many of us avoid, we can lose our objectivity. We either judge ourselves harshly or kindly but rarely fairly. We easily make excuses or we readily jump to never letting ourselves off the hook. But both are equally damaging.

Mayor Ed Koch used to ask “How am I doing?” Some believed it was a way of keeping in touch with the people of New York, others found it to be disingenuous. Some were even annoyed by the sense of insecurity it belied. But the sentiment is one we can all relate to. We all would like to know how we are doing.

In school there are tests. In careers there are promotions. In sports there are statistics. But in life there don’t seem to be the same metrics for success. Our Mishna explains, ask someone whose opinion you value – if they are willing to share it, take heed. They may have a perspective you have lost.

  

Fixed Time and Focused

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 1:15

SHAMMAI USED TO SAY: MAKE THY [STUDY OF THE] TORAH [A MATTER OF] ESTABLISHED [REGULARITY] SPEAK LITTLE, BUT DO MUCH; AND RECEIVE ALL WITH A PLEASANT COUNTENANCE.

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains that truly successful people spent close to 10,000 hours thinking about the area in which they would like to be successful.  His point is that if we want to achieve success we will need singular focus, intensity and determination. I agree. The problem is that sometimes this leads to an unbalanced life and other parts of our lives may suffer. 

The Bartenura (Obadiah ben Abraham died 1500, Jerusalem), in explaining the first section of this Mishna, says that you don’t have to spend your entire life in the study of Torah; in fact, that would not be good.  But we do have to set aside time for it none-the-less. From this statement we can deduce that there is no minimum requirement for study.  The Bartenura suggests that we must fit Torah into our lives in a way that works for each of us.

And so we learn that not everything has to be done to the extreme.  We sometimes “sacrifice the good for the perfect.”   We want it all; we want to be the best; we want to become experts and as a result of this, there are many worthwhile activities we never enjoy.