GOOD MORNING! Every human being on this planet has someone who s/he disagrees with -- a spouse, a parent, a child, a boss, an employee. It is amazing that a parent can walk into a teenager's room, blow his top about the messiness of the room, the irresponsibility of the child, the impossibility of finding anything, the health hazards and the lack of consideration for others -- and expect his child to say, "Gee, Dad, I never thought of that before; thank you for pointing it out. I am definitely going to change!" When that doesn't happen, the parent often figures that maybe next time if he yells just a little bit louder, the message will get through. (Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results.)

This phenomenon also occurs between groups. In Israel there is such a lack of communication between groups -- Ashkenazie-Sephardie, Right-wing-Left-wing, Religious-Secular -- that a Tel Aviv University study in 1998 reported that "70% of Israeli Jews expect an outbreak of political and religious violence." (research by Modiin Ezrachi). To counter this, a group of secular and religious Jews have created Common Denominator, endorsed by the UJA, to unify the Jewish people. The following piece was created to foster communication. (If you feel that preventing a civil war in Israel is one of your top priorities, you might want to contact them -- David Geffen, 9722-566-0048, fax: 9722-566-0047, or check out their website -- )

The 10 Commandments of How to Have a Good Fight

  1. Begin with something positive to create a friendly atmosphere.

  2. Appreciate the human being you are talking with. S/he is not the enemy.

  3. Respect your opponent's desire to do the right thing. When possible, give positive feedback.

  4. Desire peace. If your opponent makes offensive mistakes, don't retaliate, rather help him/her recover.

  5. Be open-minded. If your opponent makes a good objection, admit to it (and enjoy your new clarity).

  6. Don't interrupt. Treat others as you would like to be treated. In the long term, you will save time.

  7. Don't provoke your opponent by hitting his/her hot buttons.

  8. "Show me, don't shout at me." Keep the fight intellectual. Don't force your opinion by shouting.

  9. Lead by example. Don't expect your opponent to keep these rules. Teach them by example.

  10. End by summarizing what you have in common with your opponent, a good start for next time.

Torah Portion of the Week

Behar begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Every 50th year is the Yovel, the Jubilee year, where agricultural activity is also proscribed.

These two commandments fall into one of the seven categories of evidence that G-d gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then do not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating every 7th year one has to be either G-d or a meshugenah (crazy).

Also included in this portion: redeeming land which was sold, to strengthen your fellow Jew when his economic means are faltering, not to lend to your fellow Jew with interest, the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition to not make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary.

The second portion for this week, Bechukotai, begins with the multitude of blessings you will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. (Truly worth reading!) It also contains the Tochachah, words of admonition, "If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..." There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that G-d does not punish for punishment's sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. G-d does not wish to destroy us or annul His covenant with us. He wants us to know that there are consequences for our every action; He also wants to get our attention so that we do not stray so far away that we assimilate and disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Lev. 26:14 - 45 and Deut. 28.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "You shall not hurt the feelings of one another, and you shall fear the Almighty" (Leviticus 25:17). Why does the verse end with the words, "and you shall fear the Almighty"?

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger commented: Some people are careless with the feelings of other people; they think that they only have to be careful to observe those commandments which involve man's obligation to the Almighty. The Truth is that if a person is not careful with his obligations to his fellow men and speaks against them and hurts their feelings, he will eventually be careless with the commandments between man and the Almighty. This is why the Torah adds the admonition to fear the Almighty at the end of the verse. Failure to observe the first half of the verse will lead to failure to observe the latter half of the verse.

Since verbal abuse can cause so much suffering, much care must be taken not to say things to people that will hurt their feelings. The more sensitive someone is, the greater care we must take when speaking to him not to cause pain with our words. Not only is it important to watch what you say to someone, but also your tone of voice is crucial. If you shout at someone or speak in an angry voice, this causes hurt feelings and is included in this prohibition.

Every time you speak to someone you have a choice of saying things that will make him feel good (which is the fulfillment of an act of Chesed, kindness) or you might say something that will hurt him (and violate this prohibition). Utilize your power of speech to build people up, not to tear them down.