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GOOD MORNING! This week's Torah portion, Korach, is about disputes created for one's personal gain though they are disguised in philosophic terms and in seemingly lofty values. Disputes are destructive in relationships and especially in marriages. Discussions are productive! I thought it might be of some help to someone to share some ways to avoid arguments, particularly with one's spouse!
HOW TO NOT ARGUE
- It takes two to argue. If you don't answer back, there cannot be an argument. Just say, "I'd rather not talk about it now" and just soflty repeat that phrase as necessary. Schedule a time to talk about it in the future.
- Arguments escalate with the volume of the arguers. "A soft answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). The more forceful the other person argues, the quieter your response becomes. You will see the other side tone down his/her voice in response.
- You can't have an argument if you agree. "That's a good point." "I hadn't thought about that." "You are definitely right." Focus on where you can agree, not where you differ.
- Admit you were wrong. No one is ever totally right. Find something to apologize for, to take responsibility for. The other person will feel better and may even own up to some mistakes of his/her own.
- Do not accuse or attack. Don't say, "You said this!" "You did that!" Ask questions, don't make statements. And ask questions with sincerity not as a cutting sword to make an attack.
- Remember your goal! In the case of marriage, you want harmony, peace, a good atmosphere, love. Arguments breed stress and anxiety, not peace and pleasantness. Tell yourself: I love my spouse, I love my kids, I love my money (divorces cost a lot of money).
- Don't be foolish to show disrespect to your chosen one and to yourself by saying things that are damaging, mean or not worthwhile. You chose this person to be your spouse. This is the person above all others who has the qualities to be chosen over the other billions of people on this planet.
- Turn the argument into a discussion. Don't defend a position; set forth an idea or problem to be clarified. People of good will who reason together can come to a common conclusion. Listen with an open mind. Be a judge, not a lawyer!
- Ask yourself, "Is this argument really worth it?" In the end, whatever you are arguing about may be ultimately trivial and there are other issues of communication, respect or responsibilities which are creating the angst and anger and the reasons why you are arguing rather than discussing in the first place.
Torah Portion of the Week
There are two rebellions this week. First, Korach, a Levite who was passed over for the leadership of his tribe, challenges Moshe over the position of High Priest. No good rebellion can be "sold" as a means for personal gain, so Korach convinces 250 men of renown that they must stand up for a matter of principle - that each and every one of them has the right to the office of High Priest (which Moshe had announced that God had already designated his brother Aharon to serve).
Fascinatingly, all 250 followers of Korach accept Moshe's challenge to bring an offering of incense to see who God will choose to fill the one position. This meant that every man figured he would be the one out of 250 to not only be chosen, but to survive the ordeal. Moshe announces that if the earth splits and swallows up the rebels it is a sign that he (Moshe) is acting on God's authority. And thus it happened!
The next day the entire Israelite community rises in a second rebellion and complains to Moshe, "You have killed God's people!" The Almighty brings a plague which kills 14,700 people and only stops when Aharon makes an incense offering.
To settle the question once and for all, Moshe has the head of each tribe bring a staff with his name on it. The next morning only Aharon's staff had blossomed and brought forth almonds. The people were shown this sign. Aharon's staff was placed in front of the curtain of the ark as testimony for all time.
This week's Torah portion tells the story of Korach's dispute with Moshe (see above, the Torah Portion, section for details!). The Mishna (a teaching) in Pirkei Avot 5:20 (Ethics of the Fathers - a book of concise Jewish wisdom available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242), states: "Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will be of lasting worth and one not for the sake of Heaven will not be of lasting worth. Which dispute was for the sake of Heaven? That of Hillel and Shamai. Which was not for the sake of Heaven? That of Korach and his company."
The Mishna should have said that the dispute not for the sake of Heaven was that of Korach and Moshe, not between Korach and his fellow conspirators! Why didn't the Mishna mention Moshe as the antagonist? Korach started the dispute for his own personal gain (not for the sake of Heaven) while Moshe was upholding the Almighty's word and the Almighty's honor (you can't get more "for the sake of Heaven" than this)!
Why then does the Mishna mention that a dispute not for the sake of Heaven is the one between "Korach and his company"? We might think that Korach and his company were united in their argument with Moshe. The mishna is telling us that each of the 250 was challenging Moshe for his own gain (remember, each one brought incense to see if he himself would be chosen as the Cohen Gadol, High Priest.) In truth, Korach and his congregation were in dispute amongst themselves as to who should be the High Priest.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 27:
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You know your task in life
is not complete
if you are still alive.
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