Speaking from the heart

Note from Lucky: My apologies for how few posts have gone up recently, owing to technical difficulties such as having only 24 hours in a day, among other things. We hope to stop having to make these apologies soon, by actually posting at least twice a week.

One of, in my opinion, the most inspiring type of speeches are the ones with personal stories. The person sharing their story serves as a living mashal of the idea they teach. And the more deeply personal and ‘real’ the story is, the more emotion and life the speaker conveys, the better the audience can absorb it.

What I realized tonight is that these stories aren’t always easy to tell. What it means for most speakers is reaching into your deepest, often most personal memories, evoking strong emotions, and sharing those private thoughts in a clear, coherent manner. That gift they give over is what makes the speech so powerful, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Try to imagine doing it yourself for a moment…

And now you know why speakers so appreciate our thanks and appreciation. The more you show it, the more they can keep on giving, knowing it was worth the effort.

How to be a critic

I’ve mentioned constructive (I don’t like to call it rebuke, that’s for parents and teachers) criticism in posts in the past, and I thought a longer post about it might be warranted. What exactly is constructive criticism?

Did you know that just like it’s a mitzvah to rebuke someone, it’s a mitzvah not to if you know it’s not likely to be listened to? More often than not, my response is to turn a blind eye, and work on being machmir with myself instead, but sometimes, it has to happen. Here are some tips for being heard, without humiliating anyone or destroying a friendship. (FYI, yes, this post is long, but it’s worth reading. There’s a link to a short form at the bottom.)

  1. Keep a pleasant voice
    Start with something kind and friendly, such as ‘Hey, Shprintza, do you have a moment?’
  2. Move it to a private place
    99% of the time, this isn’t just an ‘if possible.’ Most people will willingly come somewhere quiet for a moment, but if no-where quiet can be found, you should almost definitely wait until later. This is to avoid anyone accidentally overhearing, which could be lashon Harah as well as rather embarrassing. Use your discretion! Also, keep a quiet tone of voice– my ‘inside voice’ carries quiet well sometimes, so I have to constantly remind myself to go one level softer than I would otherwise– if you think that will help.
  3. Again, be cheerful and non-judgmental.
    You should approach this at an angle of ‘You know, I’ve noticed sometimes that you blablabla bla bla. I don’t know if you realized but that’s really abababab. I thought you might want to know that smurfy smurfy smurf.’ You can’t deny that you noticed what their doing, but for your own peace of mind as much as for the other person you should assume that they didn’t know better. Often, that’s all it is. Even when you know that they probably do know and just need a reminder, taking that tone can get you listened to. Also, have you ever heard about ‘I statements’ vs. ‘You statements?’ Even when you’re talking to someone else about them, ‘I statements’ can soften your words. Look above for an example.
  4. Do NOT patronize
    Approach them as a friend, on their level. You’re just giving advice.
  5. If relevant, offer to help in the future
    Sometimes, one little reminder is all it takes. But if your ‘notice’ is a bolt out of the blue for the other person, or they’re genuinely interested in learning more, remind them that you’re available to follow up.
  6. Plan what you’re going to say before you say it.
    When I have something important to say, at any time, I know I’m not always going to get it right on the first time. So, I’ll rehearse it in my head beforehand. (This is helpful beyond measure in all areas of life.) Often, I can’t find a quiet place for some time, and that gives me the chance I need. When you’re planning, think about your friend’s nature. Are they the sensitive type who needs to be gradually led to an idea, or are they blunt and straightforward and would much rather just hear ‘Um, Sarah, you’ve got a huge run in those tights and you might want to find a new pair STAT’?
  7. Don’t heap it all on at once
    It’s happened more than once where I’ll say something that doesn’t even really register as criticism, ‘Lea, that bun looks great but there’s a cute little curl sticking out at the back. Just in case you don’t have eyes in the back of your head;’ and then, notice or see shortly after something that fits the ‘do say’ conditions above. Maybe it’s just that I’m the sensitive type mentioned above, but I wouldn’t like so much ‘problem fixing’ all at once. Unless it’s something really really minor (you be the judge) I’d rather wait a little while and see if the problem will resolve itself. Sometimes, it does, and then you don’t have to say two things at all.
  8. Remember, you can ask a mentor if you’re not sure.
    They are always available. If you don’t want to get ‘the authorities’ involved in whatever minor thing this person did, you can leave out names and the most crucial details, or ask someone who dosn’t know your friend. Sometimes, though, knowing both sides of the story can give a more careful response. And, above all these tips, DAVEN!!

Whew, that was quiet the post! Makes up for all the other weeks, I hope. In all seriousness, though, the goal of reading this isn’t for you to become an expert at criticizing your friends. We’re all perfect :), and I hope you’ll never need these skills. This way, though, if you ever see the need, you’ll have a better idea of how to encourage maximum improvement with minimal pain.

(Pocket guide! here, along with a few more tips.)

Constructive Criticism 1

It’s somewhat sad to write about something that you wouldn’t even notice is a good and positive thing if it weren’t that so few people did it. But the fact is, we all notice the bad things anyway. I choose to also highlight the good.

I overheard two girls today talking about a particular teacher and a particular class. But what made them different was that they weren’t griping, exaggerating, blaming, or speaking lashon harah.

Rather, one told her friend that she was having xy and z issue, and that this was why. She added, in a reasonable, calm voice, that she knew she should respect this teacher, and she did, but that nevertheless, this was still an issue, and she had no clue what to do about it. Her concerns, I can attest to personally, were valid, and it was an issue. But the way she handled it showed maturity and respect.

Though poor behavior cannot be denied to exist, I also choose not to highlight it. If you don’t understand why this was music to my ears, kol hakavod for you.

A light in the dark

The recent stabbing attacks in Israel have all been so horrific, but this one stands out. A 13 year old on his bike. Where I live, if you stay away from the traffic, nothing could be more prosaic. Stabbed by two boys, one his age, one a little older.

Here is some light. We all know how amazing Hatzolah/Magen David Adom is. Here’s a new one. A Hatzolah member picking his child up from a playdate while off duty stopped to answer a question from someone in the family– a, if Heaven forbid this happens, how do we work around xyz already existing issue?– question. Of course they would. It’s just another way for them to preempt a crisis and potentially save a life.

But still– look at it deeper. Maybe you just had to be there to appreciate the encouraging, kind tone that was used. The willingness to stay however long the question took. The way his child stood waiting patiently the entire time. The fact that we’re a nation where something like this isn’t breaking news… just a part of life. So normal it’s exceptional.

Wishing you all good health and protection to all the residents of Israel.

So Inspired

Read the original here, or look below. A thank you to the owner of Mevakesh Lev for giving open permission to me to share such posts.

Mizmor Li-toda!

With gratitude to and with the help of Hashem Yisborach, I have reached the milestone of 2000 recorded shiurim on line. I say this not to boast [for arrogance makes one smelly and I don’t want to be that] but to thank Hashem and the countless people who have been listening and reading over the last 9 years since I entered the world wide web.I often have my doubts and hesitations as to whether it is the right thing to be part of the Internet world because as we know, רובא דרובא דרובא דרובא – the vast-vast majority of the Internet is at best dvarim betialim, frivolous matters, and all too often much-much worse, but I hope that Hashem has nachas ruach from my attempt to try to add Torah and Kedusha to the many who are there anyway.Money

Besides the benefit of spreading Torah that I already mentioned, there is another benefit – money. Lots of money.

Meaning – I get paid zero-zilcho-efes-kloom for all of the Torah that I spread and that is the way it should be. Torah is NOT a means to earn a living – it is too holy for that. Those who take money in order to learn and teach Torah only do so in order to save themselves and families from starvation. When not necessary, it should not be done. So it is very gratifying that after years of having to take a [albeit miniscule] salary for teaching Torah, the Internet afforded me an opportunity to teach for nothing. Or better – for nothing material but for everything spiritual.

So I want to pray to Hashem that He, in His infinite mercy, allows me to continue being involved in Torah day and night שלא על מנת לקבל פרס.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the many who appreciate my efforts and have been helping me in my efforts to spread Torah and light, especially for the last four years since I left yeshiva.

So thank you Hashem and thank you beloved friends. Many of you I know personally and many-many more I don’t, but I thank and love you all.

Bi-ahava,
Me 

Acceptance with Love

“Does anyone know where I put my book down?”

“Were you holding it when you went to chase Mendy*?” (*henceforth the pseudonym for the 2 1/2 year old boy)

Mendy heard me. “Me?”

“You.”

“Yay!!!!”

This reminds me of something I once learned about the famous prophet Yeshayah (Issiah.) One of the things that gave him the merit to have so much positivity in a time of historic darkness was that he accepted what G-d wanted from him with joy and happiness.

Mendy, so young and sweet, was just genuinely happy to be… Mendy. In spite of the hardships he faces. Maybe this is something we could all learn from.

Have a wonderful and peaceful Shabbat!

Mid-conversation consideration

I arrived at shul last night for megillah reading (I walked, and it was lovely out) and sat down in an open seat with an empty chair on either side. At about five minutes before the reading was to start, I looked up to find that the four older girls who’d sat down by me, two on each side, were talking over my head. They were trying to work out why some other friends weren’t here and compare notes on which ones had a megillah reading already aranged for the night.

I didn’t mind just sitting there and letting them talk, but wouldn’t the girls be more comfortable not talking over a (however much shorter) head? I had no problems moving to the end of the row to let them talk in peace.

While I was waiting for the right time to speak up, one suddenly turned to me. “Oh! I’m so sorry. We’ve been talking over you all this time!” I rushed to tell her that it was no big problem, I didn’t mind, and I was happy to move if it was more convenient for her. But no, she continued, telling me that it was ok, I was fine where I was, and that she really was sorry. Put me in a great frame of mind for megillah reading.

Sugar and spice and everything…

I was on my way into Shul one Shabbat recently. That week there was a girls’ Shabbaton in my neighborhood, and I overheard the following conversation, which took place between one of the proctors and a teenage girl.

“So, how was last night? Did you sleep at all?”

A few polite answers, and then,

“What about the girls in your house? Are they nice?”

“They’re so friendly, and warm, and lively and cheerful and just so nice! That’s why I’m here- it’s so much fun to be around them that I knew I would have to leave to daven!”