July 20, 2024
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July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I was driving last week on the New Jersey Turnpike and found myself going quite slowly behind a truck in the middle lane. As I put on my blinker to switch into the left lane in order to pass the truck, I saw there was ample room for me to make the lane change. A black-colored SUV, which I saw in the left lane, honked as I moved. Although he had plenty of room behind me, he apparently thought that I was going to slow him down. As I made eye contact with the driver in my rear-view mirror, he greeted me with a non-pleasant hand gesture and threw his hands up before banging them down on the steering wheel. I waved with my hand and he gestured to me once again in response. I wondered to myself: my wave could have meant two different things. On the one hand, I could have been thanking him for letting me in the lane even though I may have slowed him down. The second prospect could have been that my wave represented my trying to apologize for not realizing how close to me he was. Another likeliness could have been that my wave represented my appreciation for his horn, because otherwise I could have had an accident. The final possibility, which was probably the most accurate to the other driver, was that my wave represented a disregard for his gesture and behavior.

While many times we are able to communicate with people verbally and tell them how we feel, there are times we are left wondering about how others are relating to us and whether they are grasping our non-verbal attempts at communication.

In Parshat Chukat, Moshe makes the most critical error of his life by failing to verbalize his request of an inanimate object—the infamous rock, as instructed by Hashem. When Bnei Yisrael were struggling from a lack of water, Hashem told Moshe to speak to a specific rock and it would bring forth water. Moshe hit the rock out of what seemed to have been his frustration with the Jewish people. They were a people who were complaining quite frequently and Moshe’s patience was tested. The Sifrei explains that because Moshe became angry, he made the critical mistake of hitting the rock rather than speaking to it. Anger leads to error. One of the times we find ourselves conveying non-verbal communications is when we are angry. Instead of assuming others can or should understand what is bothering us, we are urged to speak and express our feelings in an honest and sincere way. This is a true necessity for those who are closest to us in our lives. It is sad when people are left with no choice but to live in an environment where they are left to walk on eggshells most, or all, of the time. To remain healthy in our personal interactions we need to make sure we have clarity when it comes to our communication. If we fail to do so, we may be misunderstood, like a driver waving to another driver behind him.

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

 Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler is rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange, New Jersey, and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected].

 

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