This week's parsha
From the Heart
This week's Parshah speaks about how we should approach another person if we feel the need to point out some aspect of their behavior that is bothering us or may seem unacceptable.
The Baal Shem Tov tells us that another person is like a mirror -- if we find ourselves noticing faults in others, it is because they exist within ourselves. It is not such a foreign concept -- it is common in psychological terms to speak of one person "projecting" their own faults onto another. It is incumbent upon us to realize that when we see a fault in somebody else, it is only because we need to work on ourselves.
This fits well with the time-period we are in, Sefirat Haomer. During this traditional period of semi-mourning, we commemorate the loss of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples. The Torah tells us that each of them was so sure that he was right, and so determined to share this wonderful news with his fellow, that he lost sight of his fellow’s needs and wishes.
It is said that "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." This implies that if the other person is not receptive to my message, it is a clear indication that my words are not coming from the right place -- the blame falls upon me, rather than upon him. If I still need to point something out to somebody, it must be done in a manner of sincere and genuine kindness and concern for them, not for myself.
Our tradition is replete with anecdotes regarding the importance of guarding one's speech. The story is told of the group of travelers who found themselves guests in a stranger’s house, in a strange city, their host being kind enough to feed them and provide shelter. The guests, scrupulous in their observance of the kosher laws, asked question after question regarding the exact details of the food and its preparation. One of those present in the house asked them, "Tell me -- are you as careful about what comes out of your mouth as you are as what goes into it?"
The tongue, say the sages, has no bones, allowing it to move in any direction. We have to be careful that it should only move in the right direction!