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August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
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D'VARIM

Don’t Believe Everything They Say About Us

Human nature is such that hearing something over and over again for forty years will inevitably have an impact on the person.
Moses_Pleading_with_Israel

That is why he hit the rock instead of talking to the rock. Moses made the colossal error of thinking that he was the one doing the decision making and not God. Subconsciously, he decided to hit the rock to do it his own way. For this he was punished.

Now, while recounting the story of the spies and the accusation that he was a lone ranger acting without God’s approval Moses tells the people how much he was affected by their complaints. He tells the Israelites that their constant complaining had an effect on him and when he hit the rock part of it was because of what the Israelites had been saying to him for all those years.

The reason Moses was punished was because he hit the rock. But maybe the reason he hit the rock was because of the sort of complaints he had been subject to for 40 years. Case in point, the sin of the spies and the accusations and insults which accompanied the incident. Moses was told too many times that he was a renegade leader. Eventually his mind fooled him into believing it, if only for just a millisecond. But the damage was done. Moses hit the rock. Thus Moses mentions that he has been punished and will not be entering the Land of Israel while recounting the story of the spies.

In our lives we hear a lot about ourselves. Our parents and teachers tell us what they think about us. Friends and acquaintances make us aware of their opinions. Bosses and co-workers may express their feelings about us. Spouses and children tell us all that we need to know about ourselves. What they say might be true, it might not be true, but it definitely makes a difference.

We have to place ourselves in situations where we hear the right things about ourselves. Too much praise or too much criticism can make a real impression on our own thoughts about ourselves. Whether it artificially inflates our sense of self-worth, or if it artificially deflates our self-confidence, what other say about us makes a difference. It is wise for us to consider our social environment and analyze how we are being talked about in our daily lives.

Conversely, we have a huge responsibility to think about what we say about others. When it comes to our children, we have so much to say about them. Are we critical? Are we honest about their failings? Do they hear how much we love them? Do they hear how proud we are of their accomplishments? Do they hear a barrage of criticism? Do they get reminded of their shortcomings or negative personality quirks regularly?

We have so much power over what our children think of themselves. It would be wise for us to maximize their feelings of confidence and imbue them with an honesty about rising up to their challenges. What we say about them in person and what they hear us say about them will make a very big difference in the way they think about themselves.

The Jewish people as a whole are routinely discussed in the public arena. They say we are too much or this, or too little of that. We hear Jews being talked about it all the time. We read descriptions of Jewish people or Jewish ideas. Hearing lies over and over will take a toll on our collective psyche. We need to be sure that we do not believe everything we hear about ourselves. We cannot allow negativity dictate our communal mood.

It can be hard to stonewall what we hear about us as a group or as individuals. But being aware of the potential harm in believing our own publicity is the first step in avoiding it.

Above all, we cannot neglect our incredible opportunity to positively shape how others think about themselves. There is no part of our lives that this is more important that how we deal with our children and spouses. Let us use this knowledge to shower those closest to us with love, affection, positivity, and honesty. – Good Shabbos

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About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.

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