Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sefiras HaOmer: Real Listening

Rebbe Elazar ben Azarya said, "I am like a man of seventy and I have not been able to persuade any of my colleagues that the mitzvah of recounting the Exodus from Egypt applies a night until Ben Zoma came along and inferred from the pasuk that kol y'mei chayecha refers to the nights."

The Sages argue that kol y'mei chayecha refers to the World to Come.

The Gemara asks, why does the psak halacha go in accordance with Hillel's view? The students of Shammai were considered very analytical, charifim, sharp. The school of Hillel, while they may not have had the depth of Shammai, had many more students so the majority prevailed. But the Gemara make a point of telling us that since the school of Hillel would never say their own opinion without quoted the dissenting one as well.

Similarly, the halacha in the above instance is like Ben Zoma because we see that he too had the humility to relate the opposing view. It is read as if Ben Zoma himself is saying, "I understand the verse this way and I don't want you to think there is no other way to look it; the Sages say it differently."

That kind of humility means that they have carefully listened and considered all angles and that the opinions of others were taken into account as well. Beis Hillel's opinion was built on those of their peers. Walk into a beis medrash and watch people argue about a halacha. One is trying to convince the other that the way they are learning the Gemara is right and what the other person is saying is wrong. That same thing plays over in any situation: corporate rooms, at home between a husband and wife and  between parents and children.

Another important point: The secret to counseling somebody else is really, truly listening to what they are saying. Do you view and hear that person as an object or are you identifying with them? Can you experience it the way the other person is experiencing it? Until such as time as you suffer with it and feel it like he is feeling it, you can't really be in a position to help him; you don't understand the pain enough.

So, you can have people who on the surface look like they are saying, "I've told you my opinion, now let me hear what you think". If you know what goes on--because you know what goes on in yourself--then you know that you've listened to the other person but you really have not listened. In other words, you heard and you may even be able to repeat what he said, but you have not said, "maybe I'm wrong. Let me think this through in a way that would incorporate the possibility that he may be right." Of course, that is difficult to do because we get our ego involved.

On the surface it looks like the two parties are genuinely listening to each other. Rebbe Akiva's disciples were all busy discussing Torah and it must have looked like a real dialogue going on but reality, in depth, they were not honoring each other, they did not care about the other person's opinion. That means that to some degree they viewed their peers as lesser than they and as unworthy of their energy. They were not even giving them a chance. It is entirely possible that Rebbe Akiva, when he looked over his academy, was pleased with the fact that everybody seems very intent on hearing what the other person had to say yet in reality they weren't listening.

(Sefira 5763/2003)

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