Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Step # 2

Part 2

לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך

You shall not hate your brother in your heart (Vayikra 19:17)

When teaching Step #2 to my students, I tell the following true story from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book, “Love Your Neighbor”:

There was a non-religious, Jewish person who inadvertently ended up driving his car through a religious neighborhood in Yerushalayim on Shabbat. He was surprised to find the roadway blocked off by a barrier. This made him furious and he began a weekly practice of driving through religious neighborhoods on Shabbat to upset and antagonize the local residents. On one Shabbat, as he stopped to move a barrier aside, a local resident came up to him and…

At this point in the story, I stop and ask my students what they would say or do if they were the one approaching the man while he was removing the barrier. Most of the time the students would say things like:

  • • “This is my Shabbat. Please don’t drive through here.”
  • • “It’s not nice to upset people on their special day.”
  • • “Would you like it if someone did the same thing to you?”

I explained to the students that most of their suggestions, while reasonable, could be seen by the driver as lecturing, and most people do not like to be lectured to.

I then told the students the rest of the story.

The resident stopped him with a smile on his face and asked for the driver’s name and address, which he gave him. The driver was quite surprised when, that night, the man paid a visit to his home. For two hours the visitor lovingly told him all about the benefits of Torah observance. In that one evening, the driver’s life was changed forever. Learning about his religion and its practices in such a warm and passionate manner, inspired him to become an observant Jew. Today, all his children attend yeshiva in Yerushalayim.

In short, the man followed Step #2 in a most practical and successful way. He remembered what our rabbis have taught us—that when we come across someone doing the wrong thing, we are all partly responsible for his actions. Therefore, we must help him learn what he has done wrong, and help correct the behavior so that it will not bring either of them to sin. Just as important, it will prevent someone from becoming embarrassed.

Advice for Delivering Rebukes

When correcting someone who is doing the wrong thing, it will be helpful to keep the following in mind:

Try to imagine what is causing the person to do the wrong thing. This is sometimes referred to as “standing in someone else’s shoes.” If you can understand his reasons it will help you offer advice instead of simply correcting him.

Try to conduct a conversation before offering a rebuke. A willingness to listen might encourage some mutually agreed upon solutions.

Sometimes it might pay to overlook certain behaviors and wait until you have a better opportunity for success.

Always try your best to model the kind of behavior you want others to emulate.

Six Steps in Conflict Resolution

Since it is inevitable that conflicts will arise in classrooms as they do everywhere else in life, experts in this area recommend the following:

Identify the problem without placing the blame on anyone.

Brainstorm several solutions.

Evaluate each of the solutions with everyone involved.

Decide on the best possible solution.

Work out ways of implementing the solution.

Follow up and determine how well the solution is working.

All of these steps can be successful in resolving conflicts in the classroom.

Rabbi Naftali Reich explains that constructive criticism delivered in the spirit of love and compassion can be a catalyst for positive personal growth. He tells the following story to explain:

In a certain district of Jerusalem, all the storekeepers agreed to close down their stores for Shabbos—except for one grocer. No matter how much pressure was brought upon him, he refused to budge.

One Friday, one of the prominent Jerusalem sages, dressed in his best Shabbos finery, entered the grocery store. He stationed himself on a chair in the back of the store and proceeded to stay there for the entire day, observing the busy hustle and bustle of the grocery shoppers. As evening drew near, the grocer approached the sage and asked, “Is everything all right, rabbi? Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No,” he answered. “I have come because I wanted to understand why you refuse to close your store on Shabbos. Now, it is clear to me. You have such a busy store that it would be a tremendous ordeal for you to close, even for one day.”

The grocer burst into tears. “You are the first one to try and see it from my side,” he managed to say between sobs. “Everyone scolded and berated me, but before you, no one tried to understand me.”

After that day, it was not long before the grocer agreed to close his store on Shabbos. A few sympathetic and understanding words had been effective where threats and invective had failed.

By Stanley Fischman

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