Learning to Give Compliments from a Rabbi

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A New Book by Artscroll Publishers, “Yedidi – Rabbi Shmuel Berkovicz, whose warmth and caring inspired people to strive for greatness by Rabbi Yechiel Spero” is about a Congregation Rabbi that lead with love.

Recently, in the Weekly Mesorah Heritage Foundation’s Torah pamphlet called “AT THE ARTSCROLL SHABBOS TABLE – WEEKLY INSPIRATION AND INSIGHT ADAPTED FROM CLASSIC ARTSCROLL TITLES” Acharei Mos / פרשת אחרי מות / כייט ניסן תשפייב / 5782 / APRIL 30, 2022 / ISSUE #88 – it talks of his all compassing love for others.

Here is a quote I found particularly Helpful in the quest to make others feel good.

It Doesn’t Cost Money
Shlomo Hamelech / King Solomon teaches (Mishlei / Proverbs 25:11), “Tapuchei zahav be’maskiyos kasef davar davur al ofnav” Like golden apples carved on silver plates, so is a word spoken in its proper place.” Rabbi Berkovicz was the master of saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. He understood the power of a compliment and did not hold back. No one was too smart or too simple, too old or too young, too chashuv or too insignificant for a compliment from Reb Shmuel. As he always said, “Es kost nisht kein gelt. It doesn’t cost money to make someone feel good!”

The Prayer (and Solution) for Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home

In a recent Shiur / Lecture Rabbi Meir Eliyahu mentioned that after his lectures the two most frequent Berachot / Blessings that people ask from him – are that they or someone should find an appropriate mate / Shidduch and a prayer for Shalom Bayit / Peaceful relations at Home – usually between man & a wife.

He mentioned in passing – once someone asked Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, zt”l – a Gadol / Great rabbi from a recent previous generation – “Why didn’t the Anshei Kenesset HaGedolah / Men of the Great Assembly include in the Amida / Standing Prayer (said in daily Jewish Prayer Services) a prayer for Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home?”

He Responded “They did” – [in one of the last paragraphs of the Amida – it says And those that curse my soul – let me remain silent] –  “and let my soul be like the dust of the earth to all.”

The reason why many don’t have Shalom Bayit is Expectations – “Aren’t you supposed to serve me? – aren’t you supposed to agree with me? Aren’t you supposed to respect me? Aren’t you supposed to appreciate me? Aren’t you supposed to bring money home? Aren’t you supposed to clean the house?”

If you  consider yourself as dust – you don’t have such high expectations. You don’t get into quarrels.

Pray for peace – but just as important work on your middot / character traits.

There are segulas for Shalom HaBayit (Shin, Lamed, Vav, Mem, Hai, Bet, Yud, Taf in Hebrew.) – like reading Tehillim / Psalm 119 / the eight verses corresponding to each of the letters for Shin, Lamed, Vav, Mem, Hai, Bet, Yud, Taf.

But learning works of Mussar / Torah Ethics like Messilat Yesharim / Path of the righteous, Hovovot HaLevavot / Duties of the Heart, Shaar HaBitachon / Gate of Faith in G-d from the Beit HaLevi – can also help. Check out Feldheim & Artscroll for their Mussar Sefarim / Books.

Pray for Peace but Work on Your Middot.

Pursue & Practice Pleasantness

It’s a challenge to always be nice and pleasant.

I feel you can say almost anything to a person in a nice way. I try – but it doesn’t always work. So how can one learn?

Emotions get in the way. One first step is getting control of one’s emotions.My rebbi used to say a person’s mind should control their heart not the other way around.

Another is practice talking nicely and weighing one’s words.

Another is learning works of mussar / Jewish ethics – like Duties of the Heart (Chovos ha-Levavos R Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda) and Pirkei Avot.

Duties of the Heart – talks about how a Jewish person is to act, feel, think. It is a good start.

In the introduction to the Sefer / Book we read:

Inward service, however, consists of the fulfillment of the Duties of the Heart such as: to acknowledge the Unity of G-d in our hearts, believe in Him and His torah, to undertake His service, that we revere Him and humble ourselves before Him, that we love Him, trust in Him, and give over our lives to Him, that we abstain from what He hates, devote our actions to His Name, that we reflect on the benefits He bestows, and similar things which are performed by the thoughts and sentiments of the heart but do not associate with activity of the visible limbs of the body.

Belief & Trust in G-d is also an important aspect of being pleasant. When a person believes in G-d – knowing that all that comes from Him is for the good – his or her reactions are different than one who lacks trust. A person who trusts Hash-m will understand that all that happens is for the good. Keeping that in mind at all times is a challenge. To do so one can read books like the series “Living Emuna – Living a daily life of Trust in Hashem” By Rabbi David Ashear illuminates practical stories of how simple people who trusted Hash-m were able to overcome many difficulties.

Practice smiling.

Practice connecting.

Become better every day.

Take 2 for a More Productive You

People procrastinate. It isn’t always the work they shun. It may be that they have more interesting things to do. So they’ll put that “maintenance” chore on the side to do more creative work.

I am not into filling out forms. I am not into routine work. But you have to do them.

Should I take ten minutes to do them? Ten whole minutes? How about Five? Five – not bad. Two Minutes? That’s doable.

Take the two minutes to start the “push off” task. Once you start, it’ll be more easy to continue. One way to get you to start the task is to make starting the thing seem doable. Once you start – continue.

Apparently the same applies to advancing in Judaism. Learn Torah for two minutes. Learn Two Halachot / Jewish laws a day. Learn Two Mishnayot a day. Do 2 new Mitzvot a day.

I now understand why it says “One who learns Halachot / Jewish Laws daily – is promised a place in the World to Come.” The minimum of a plural is two. Get started – go far.

Black Quarter in My Pocket – Glad to See You Back

Is it painted or is it just dingy? This black quarter got me thinkin. Some mark dollar bills – apparently to see if they will see it again.

If they do – what a woo. How happy if they will be if they see that long lost dollar.

So you’re happy to see a coin. Will it do something special? Not really. Just a nice coincidence.

A kid, a friend, a relative – more precious than mere money. Should not we be happier. Even if we just saw them yesterday?

A thought to think. A reaction to have – glad to see you again.

Getting a Sunny Personality – Accepting Insult with Grace

People insult.

The Giving End of Insults

We are sometimes on the giving end. I try not to insult people. I think – what do you gain? You make another person feel badly and you didn’t gain anything. Now that they are more angry at you because you insulted them – they are going to do what you want?

The concept of “Sticks and Stones may break my bones – but names will never harm me.” is not a true concept according to Torah. Words can hurt. Onaat Devarim / Pain With Words are a set of halachot / Jewish laws that Jews learn to not hurt others with words.

The Receiving End of Insults

We sometimes are on the receiving end of insults. I try not to get insulted by insults. I figure the other person had a bad day or something. Because the other person called me a donkey – did that make me into a donkey? No. It says in Torah – if someone calls you a donkey – prepare a saddle for your back. (Baba Kama 92b) Meaning – Don’t answer their insult – and acquiesce – rather than respond angrily – to their words.

The Healthy Sun

A French expression says “Sickness does not enter where the sun is.” So it is good to live in a place that has sunlight. Also – when a person has a sunny personality – he or she is less likely to become ill. People who let insults slide – do not hold grudges and feel anger or hatred. They avoid negative emotions & stress to have a negative physical effect on their bodies.

The Reward for Not Responding to Insults

The Torah says “Someone who is insulted but does not insult, One Who hears their degradation and answers not is like the Sun in it’s zenith” (Talmud: Tractate Shabbat 88b)

The atonement that does for all of his sins is greater than any other reparation he can make.

When One is Like the Sun

I was speaking with my friend Yossi. He explained to me why that kind of person is compared to the Sun. Why not say – he is like a lion?

Why is the Moon Smaller than the Sun

He answered – when Hash-m created the sun and the moon He created them the same size.

The moon complained – he said – “Hash-m there cannot be two rulers in the sky. G-d answered him – you are right. Make yourself smaller.”

When the sun was summoned to the discussion by Hash-m – Hash-m asked the sun – what does he have to say? The sun responded – with astonishment. He didn’t understand why he was summoned. He meant to say: “I don’t understand why I am summoned – It is You Hash-m who knows all. It is You who are the ruler of the world – what can I say?”

In that – the insulted who does not respond is like the sun. He accepts Hash-m’s judgement favorably, without complaint.

King David’s Reward

When Shimi ben Gera insulted David HaMelech / King David – His general said this man is rebellious against the King – let us kill him. David Hamelech replied – it is not he who insulted me – it is Hash-m who organized this.” His reward was so great – that his face was placed on the Throne of Glory.

Are People Really Insulting You? – the Woman Who Beat Up Her Husband

A friend came up to me on Shabbat. “I am really upset – This person treated me like a bum. My aide and I were sitting quietly and he told me that we don’t sit here like a bum.”

What am I to do? Tell him that he didn’t do it. He did it.

I said – maybe the person who complained thought you were someone else.

I told him a true story.

Once a rabbi with a beard was peacefully walking down the street. A woman walked up to him and started yelling. “How dare you come to my neighborhood! After all the pain you caused me when we were married! You have no shame?!” Her anger turned violent. She started hitting him with her purse. “take that!”

“Excuse me lady. I am not your ex-husband.” She took a good look and apologized. Oh I am sorry – I thought you were my ex. He caused me so much pain. Forgive me.”

A friend asked him – were you upset at her after what she did to you? He replied “No. She wasn’t beating me up – she was beating up her ex-husband.”

At times a person insults you. He might not be angry at you – perhaps he or she had a bad day and you happen to be in the way of that person’s anger.

You can take it personally. You can use it to change for the better. Or you can say perhaps the anger is directed at someone else or something else I did at another time.

The Hot Pot that Broke the Glass Table Cover – Calming Your Anger

They just installed the glass cover on our table top. Looks nice. I see them install it. Coming home later that day, I see a big crack in the glass. What? The first day we get it?

All is for the Good

Gam zu leTova. Also this is for the good. Perhaps it was a Kapara – an atonement for a deed. This is the lesser bad of two options of atonement.

The Evil Eye

Some will say it is Ayin HaRa / the Evil Eye. If someone sees something and they admire or desire it – they might cause an eventual damage to that object. How? We explained it before – G-d listens to the prayers of people. He also hears the heart of people. If someone wants something that you have – Hash-m pulls out the books of deeds of both people – He judges between them and if the one that lacks the object is more worthy or the one that has the object is unworthy – something happens to the object. Was it Ayin HaRa? Perhaps.

The Hot Pot

I find out someone – it doesn’t matter who – happened to put a very hot pot onto the glass. The tension caused by the heat in the glass caused it to break.

The Physics – A Free Physics Lesson

Heat causes objects to expand. Cold causes things to contract. If one places a Hot object on the glass – the glass heat is expanding the glass. The molecules in the cooler area around it is remaining stable. The expanding area is restrained by the cooler area and it breaks the glass.

A Lesson For Us – Don’t Get Heated Up

We sometimes get into a heated argument. The extreme heat breaks the relationship. It wasn’t worth it for a small matter to break the relationship. How important is the matter to you? Is it important enough to break the relationship? Decide it before the heat breaks the glass. Cool yourself down – don’t add heat to the fire. You won’t have to pay another $250 to replace the glass again or pay for a broken relationship that you will have to rebuild.

4 Types of Temperaments

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers 5:11 it says – There are 4 types of people – one gets angry quickly and calms down quickly. One who gets angry slowly and calms down slowly. One who gets angry quickly and takes much time to appease. One who gets angry slowly and is appeased easily. Let’s make efforts to be like the latter.

Rehearse Reaction to Situations that Anger

How? Rehearse in your mind how to react to particular things that anger you. And how to react in general. Count to 10 before you react. Take a glass of water before reacting. Act don’t react. Control Yourself – don’t let anger control you.

 

A Tale of Two Tailors

The King’s Banquet

Once upon a Time two Jewish tailors were having a hard time making a living in their town. Their solution : to go from town to town searching for tailoring jobs. They were traveling for several years. They arrived at a town and saw the governor of the town was troubled. They asked what is bothering you. He replied – he needed to prepare clothing for royal family for the king’s banquet and he could not find qualified tailors.

Family in Jail

“We could do the job!” they assured him. He tested them – finding that they were qualified. After about a year the king had his banquet and was very satisfied with the clothing. The king thanked the tailors and gave them a large sum of money. The queen whispered to the king – “should we tell them about the Jewish family is in prison because they did not pay their taxes?” The king mentioned it to them. They asked how much money do they owe. He said “300 Gold Rubles.”

Redeeming Captives / Pidyon Shevuim

One tailor said to the other – let’s do the mitzvah / commandment of redeeming captives. The other tailor replied “I have to bring money back to my family.” The tailor who suggested helping the family counted his money he earned and found he had just enough to redeem the family.

The family was so thankful. The praised him and blessed him.

The Rich gets Richer – the Poor Remains Poor

The tailors returned to their town. One with much money –  the other poor. The poor person came home and told his wife of the story. The man was forced to go from door to door to ask for money to support his family. The other tailor became wealthy.

Discovering a Concealed Blessing

Once a person wanted to give him a valuable coin. He asked him what will you give me in return? The poor man said I’ll give you a blessing. The man needed a blessing because he had an important meeting with wealthy people that evening for a business deal. That evening he noticed that the deal went unusually smoothly.

He thereafter – searched for this poor man before doing a business deal to receive a blessing.

The Power of Blessing

People found out his power of blessing. They started lining up to receive a blessing. The Baal Shem Tov – a great Rabbi – asked his students to ask the man to come to him to talk. At the meeting – he inquired what special deed he did that gave him this power of blessing. He said I don’t know. Finally the Baal Shem Tov told him – the fact that he redeemed the Jewish family – Hash-m gave him the power to bless others and have the prayers readily answered.

I heard this story from Moshe – with whom I learn Torah. He told me he heard it in French from Rabbi Avi Assouline.

We think that blessings are only those that give us material benefit – really there are many blessings for which we can be thankful – good health, children, healing, wisdom, the ability to give blessings, etc.

At times we receive blessings – but we take them for granted. Or someone does something good for us and thank the other profusely – but do not take into account that it was Hash-m who ordained that we should recieve the blessing. The person who helped us get a job or gave us that business deal – was an agent of Hash-m. So really we should first thank Hash-m then thank the person who was the agent.

Malki Tzedek / Shem made that mistake. We can learn from him to give the thanks in the proper order. First thank G-d – then thank the agent.

I think that thanking G-d is appropriate at a personal event – like a Brit / Bris / Circumcision, a Bar Mitzvah or a Wedding. I thought it might be proper for a person to take upon themselves a new mitzvah – as a thanks for G-d that he allowed us to have a new child, to marry off a child, etc.

What is True Love? – the Torah View

The Foundation of the Torah

Once a Gentile came to Shammai – He said “Convert me to Judaism, if you can teach me the entire Torah while standing on one foot.” Shammai – thinking he was mocking him – drove him away with his measuring stick. The gentile came to Hillel. He said “Convert me to Judaism, if you can teach me the entire Torah while standing on one foot.” Hillel said “what is hateful to you – don’t do to others – this is the entire Torah. The rest is all details based upon that foundation.” The gentile decided to convert to Judaism.

You Shall Love Your Fellow as Yourself

Rabbi Akiva said – The foundation of the Torah is veahavta lereacha kamokha – “You shall love your fellow like Yourself.”

Reasons Why a Person May Divorce His Wife According to Torah

When discussing Divorce in the Talmud – Rabbi Akiva said a valid reason for divorce is “One can divorce his wife even if she burns his meal.”

His opinion seems contradictory. If one should love his fellow like himself – why should he divorce his wife on such a trivial matter?

The Foundation of Love

Rabbi Akiva reveals a foundation of the Torah that guides a person to live a life of Truth. Rabbi Akiva says that his love for his wife (and his fellow) should be true love. Love based upon the appreciation of the person – not based upon – what do I gain from the person. If burning a meal is enough for someone to get upset and want to divorce his wife because of it – then it is not true love – and if he wants he may divorce his wife.

Fish Love

Once a person said “I Love Fish.” His fellow replied “If you loved fish – you wouldn’t catch it, skin it, cook it and eat it. You just love yourself.” A question to ask is our love based upon a matter or based upon the other. This is what it says in Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers – (Chapter 5:16)

What is Love?

16. All love that is dependent upon a matter – when the matter is nullified the love is nullified. And when it is not dependent upon a matter – it will never be nullified. What is the love that depends upon a matter that is the love Amnon & Tamar. And that that is not dependent on a matter, that is the love of David & Jonathan. [At times the love of someone is really love of self-gratification – like one who says: “I love fish.” If he really loved it he wouldn’t kill it. This is love that is dependent on a matter].

What is True Love

Real love is an appreciation of the person. Many today marry on because they think consciously or unconsciously “what’s in it for me?” If you ask a person – why do you want to marry this person? They will reply “Because I love him or her.” Scratch a little deeper ask “Why do you love this person?” They will say “They make me happy.” That love is based upon what they do for you – not your appreciation of them.

What’s More Important a Good Meal or Respect for Your Spouse, Child or loved one?

When trivial matters annoy you about a person, it means that that trivial matter has in a sense more importance than the respect of the person. If you express anger at your spouse because they burned the meal, it may mean that your eating a good meal is more important to you than the honor, respect or feelings of your spouse.

Let it Go

The wise person, the loving person will say “Let it go.” “It’s OK” “everything doesn’t have to be perfect.” While I was saying this Dvar Torah / Word of Torah at the breakfast Table – someone accidentally spilled my cup of Orange Juice on the Table and in my plate. My immediate thought was to have a reaction – but I realized I was saying a Dvar Torah to forgive others and be accepting of others faults and imperfect acts. So I said calmly “Let’s get some Towels and clean this up.”

You Overlook Your Own Faults – Overlook the Faults of Others

Torah wants a person to have real love for others – as one loves themself. A person overlooks his faults – he should overlook faults of others.

If you want to correct someone – correct them, at the proper time, with the proper voice, in the proper place with love -for them – not anger – because of the slight to you.

King Balak was afraid of the Jews after they killed two giants Sihon & Og. Balak took – the gentile Prophet Bilaam to curse them. Bilaam had one blind eye. An alusion that we too should sometimes close our eyes to the failings of others. If we see their failings – we should ask what can we do to help them – rather than jumping on them for every small detail. Give people room to grow. Give people leeway to make a mistake. Usually mistakes are not done on purpose.

Lack of Self-Serenity Causes Dissatisfaction with Others

Their first two letters of For both Balak and Bilaam are Bet, Lamed. Together they Spell – bilbul – Confusion. The Inability to think or reason in a focused, clear manner. Lack of peace of mind or Confusion causes a person to be unsatisfied. If you have a calm state of mind – it’s easier to control your immediate reactions. If you learn mussar works you are better prepared to deal with stress. Believe it is good and it will be good. Believe Hash-m sends only good – and you’ll see the situation in a positive light.

One Rabbi said that the Hebrew Letters of Balak represent veahavta lereacha kamokh / Love Your Fellow as Yourself. A student said “I don’t understand Balak is spelled with a Bet, Lamed and Kuf – the first letters of the words veahavta lereacha kamokh – are Vav, Lamed, Kaf.” The Rebbe replied – If you love another you will overlook the small mistakes, slights and faults.