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Part 8 – The Art of Communication

Friday, March 27th, 2009

David (name changed) and his wife had been married for 15 years and believed they knew what each other really wanted. While attending a marriage seminar on communication, David and his wife listened to the instructor declare, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”

He addressed the man, “Can you describe your wife’s favorite flower?”

David leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, “Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn’t it?”

Sometimes we think that someone is saying one thing, when actually, their message is completely different.  Good communication, in all spheres of life, necessitates that you pick up on each other’s subtle signs and understand the feelings and emotions behind their words.

A few years ago when I was looking to buy a new car, I spotted a sign at a local car dealer that read “Brand New Sedans at Low, Low Prices.” Enthusiastically, I walked in expecting to find the ride of my life.  Within seconds, a blue sedan caught my eye, and I quickly hopped into the driver’s seat, started playing with the console, and sunk into the extra-plush leather seats. I knew right away that I found the car I was looking for. At least that’s what I thought.

Suddenly, a car salesman woke me out of my almost dream-like state.

“These cars are not for sale. I think you made a mistake,” the assertive salesman said to me.

“Mistake?” I replied, “I couldn’t be happier.”

“Are you sure you don’t want something else? How about a larger minivan with a CD player – something your kids would love,” he asked.

“No thanks.  We already have a Town & Country.  I’m looking for something for myself.”

“Yourself? I guess you think one van is enough for the family.”

“Of course ONE is enough. Can’t you just show me a similar sedan to the one I want?”

“Well, we have smaller sedans, but they are pre-owned.”

“Pre-owned.  You mean secondhand, right?”

“That’s what we call it in our industry, ‘pre-owned.’”

“But I want a new car!”

“Okay, I get it. You want a new sedan.”

“That’s right. Do you have any?”

“Well, we used to.  Now we have compacts and minivans.  Are you sure we can’t find a real deal for you?”

Like most unsuspecting car buyers, I walked out disappointed and downright annoyed that I was saying one thing and he was hearing another. In fact, we were speaking two totally different languages.  He assumed that he knew what I wanted, but in truth, he was only interested in fulfilling his own narrow agenda.

Couples often fall into this same pattern of speaking without first listening to what their spouse is trying to tell them.  They make the mistake of assuming one thing when their spouse’s mind is moving in the opposite direction.

First Aid Relationship Tips

So what are the ways couples can improve their ability to communicate effectively in marriage and create a language of love? According to the latest theories in communication, the most important areas of focus are:

 

  • Learning how to actively listen
  • Mirroring your spouse’s feelings
  • Empathizing
  • Hearing feelings behind words
  • Reducing criticism
  • Learning to say that you’re sorry

Active Listening

One of the most essentials techniques in improving communication is active listening. Active listening, as opposed to simple listening, is a style of communication where couples pay close attention to each other’s words and feelings.  Instead of assuming that they automatically catch their message, they go the extra mile to listen carefully to their spouse’s “inner” voice. Active listening encourages people to download their thoughts to someone who will listen without being judgmental.

Imagine how good it feels when you are listened to by someone who matters in your life.  Everyone feels comforted when a good friend, teacher or spouse spends a few minutes listening to what you have to say. That’s because good communicators perceive communication as a two-way street, where listening is as equally important as is speaking one’s mind.

 

Unfortunately, many people believe that the purpose of communication is to simply get another person to do what you want. From their perspective, communication is merely a way to achieve certain goals, such as acquiring possessions, making money, attaining valuable services, and so on.  Yet, in marriage, communicating is about more than just achieving an end; it’s a means to achieving a closer and more intimate relationship.

Next week, Part 9, “Mirroring Your Spouse’s Feelings.”

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the executive director of Shalom Task Force. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Question: Whom would you like to see as the next prime minister of Israel?


 


Ehud Barak. He was in office before and even though he failed, now he can return with more experience and know-how. He was obviously chosen for a reason the first time and now will be hopefully improved.

 – Yaffa Swed, store manager


 

 

 


Believe it or not, Tzipi Livni. Despite her leftist agenda, I think she’s the most qualified to put a coalition together. The other candidates don’t impress me — especially Barak, who had a hand in starting the negotiations to divide Jerusalem during the Clinton administration.

 – Yossi Friedman, student


 

 

 


Benjamin Netanyahu. Jerusalem cannot be divided, and out of all the candidates I feel Netanyahu is the most hard line on this. He has a great command of the English language, is a good public speaker and I think he really tries hard to keep the Jewish state Jewish.

 – Reuben Stroh, student


 

 

 


I must admit that I need to more fully look into all the interested parties, but for now I don’t like any of the main contenders. I think they are all corrupt on some level.

 – Yanky Davis, project manager

The Un-Greening Of Tu-b’Shvat

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005

Almost everything that most people “know” about Tu-b’Shvat is totally wrong and completely false. Tu-b’Shvat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat in the religious calendar, has been deconstructed in recent years and converted into a holiday of ecology and environmentalist political agitprop. It is waved about by the Tikkun Olam Pagan crowd as a political banner to demand that all Jews support the Green political agenda.

The wacko “Eco-Judaism” movement, including its Tikkun dervishes, has made Tu-b’Shvat the holiest of all holidays, a day to hug bushes (other than those named George) and worship tree spirits and nature. And Jewish assimilationist liberals use it as theological ammunition to disarm anyone criticizing environmentalist fanatics.

Let’s be clear: Tu-b’Shvat is not a holiday of ecology, and it has nothing to do with environmentalism. It also is not a day in which Jews celebrate pristine forests, national parks and wilderness areas. It is, if anything, the very opposite – the celebration of agri-business and exploitation of nature for human consumption.

Tu-b’Shvat is nominally the “new year of the trees” (it is called this in the Talmud), but I question whether one in 100 liberal politically active Jews can correctly explain in what sense it is so or what this means, and I certainly doubt that any follower of Arthur Waskow or reader of Tikkun magazine on the planet could explain these things correctly.

Tu-b’Shvat is decidedly not the time when Jews celebrate the blossoming of trees. It is the middle of winter when, even in Israel, almost no trees are blossoming. (The almond tree being an exception.) The custom of going out and planting trees on Tu-b’Shvat is a modern reinterpretation of the meaning of the day, and is in fact rather silly. Tu-b’Shvat is the worst part of the year in which to try to plant trees and get them to grow. I have no doubt that 80 percent of the famous saplings planted on Tu B’Shvat by Israeli school children never really take root and grow.

If anything, Tu-b’Shvat is the “new year of trees” precisely because it is when trees are not blossoming and when it is the very worst time to be planting saplings. Tu-b’Shvat is the time when the agricultural year for produce begins, for religious counting purposes.

For example, religious laws having to do with farm produce – such as the sabbatical of the land every seventh year, or the tithes on annual produce donated to the Levites or the Temple, or the counting of growth years to determine when fruit becomes edible – require a chronological basis for counting. The logical time to start that counting is exactly when nothing in nature is happening or growing, in precisely the same way that the time to start counting a new moon (for the new month) is when it is not there at all. It makes the division into annual cycles easier and more logical for counting and taxation purposes.

Tu-b’Shvat is a happy time simply because farmers are about to begin a new agri-cycle. This is so in exactly the same sense as the “new year for farm animals” – also discussed in the Talmud though completely forgotten by most Jews, it starts on the first day of Elul in late summer. Tu-b’Shvat is a fiscal-tax new year, more like April 15 in the U.S. than some sort of “Save the Earth and the Whales Day.” Not only is it not a harvest day, it is a day when most trees are bare, and when dry fruits are eaten because there are so few fresh fruits in season, even in Israel. (Never mind that in Israel these days almost all the dry Tu-b’Shvat fruits come from Turkey.)

Because it is a day on which the annual business cycle in agri-business begins, there is not the slightest smidgen of an environmentalist political agenda in the real meaning of the day. (In fact, Tu-b’Shvat is really no holiday at all in any sense and does not have any liturgy or prayers of its own, other than the routine blessings over foods that one says every day.)

And because it is a celebration of farming, it certainly cannot be used as religious ammunition by those who demand that pristine rain forests and wilderness areas be preserved and their conversion into farms be prevented. People who want to preserve national parks and natural areas are free to lobby for these, but they will find no theological support for their position in the real Tu-b’Shvat.

So why do so many people think Tu-b’Shvat has something to do with preventing greenhouse gasses or promoting animal rights or preserving rain forests? Because the Tikkun Olam Pagans, the assimilationist proponents of leftism-as-Judaism, both in the Diaspora and in Israel, have hijacked and distorted its meaning altogether.

Want to celebrate Tu-b’Shvat in the manner it was intended? Chop down a tree for lumber, slaughter some farm animals for dinner, build a farm in the forest, and fish to your heart’s content.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

You Just Might Be An Assimilated Jewish Liberal…

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Those who watch the Tennessee Country Music Network or Comedy Central have come across comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Foxworthy’s shtick, based on an exaggerated hillbilly accent and mannerisms, revolves around his making pointed observations followed by his standard joke line, “then you just might be a redneck.” (Example: “If you have eight motor vehicles in your yard and none work…then you just might be a redneck.”)

If Foxworthy were Jewish, he could do a similar shtick based on the refrain (all together now) “then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.” It would go something like this:

1. If you spend more time worrying about whales and dolphins than about Jews, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

2. If you think that the essence of Jewish ethics is supporting the political agenda of the left wing of the Democratic Party, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

3. If you think Michael Lerner and Arthur Woodstock of Tikkun magazine are really sensitive or deep thinkers, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

4. If you think the highest priority for your ‘Temple’ is to have a good recycling program, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

5. If you think Clinton was the most pro-Israel president ever, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

6. If you think that American pressure on Israel to make peace is necessary and valuable, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

7. If you think Jews should support affirmative action programs, even though they discriminate against Jews, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

8. If you disapprove of the Rev. Al Sharpton but think he has a good point about Jews being racists, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

9. If you oppose voucher programs for schools and school choice, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

10. If you think Anthony Lewis and Leonard Fein make a lot of good points, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

11. If you approve of the Religious Action Center of the Reform synagogue movement, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

12. If you do not understand why America still needs a strong military, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

13. If you still believe the US should have just let sanctions work in Iraq, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

14. If you still think Nelson Mandela is a hero, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

15. If there?s even the slightest possibility you might vote for Jesse Jackson for any public office, you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

16. If you like to complain about how tough people have it in America, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

17. If you send your kids to a Quaker day school, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

18. If you think all that talk about political correctness suppressing free expression is a myth, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

19. If you seriously doubt that the media are dominated by liberals, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

20. If you donate to the New Israel Fund, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

21. If you think the courts and police are riddled with institutional racism, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

22. If you think Jews should practice zero-population growth because the world is so crowded, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

23. If you think the Israeli settlements are the main obstacle to peace, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

24. If you think that Oslo was basically a sound idea that was applied incorrectly, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

25. If you think Shimon Peres is basically a decent guy with the right agenda, then you just might be an assimilated Jewish liberal.

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available on Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com

Palestinian “Rope A Dope”?

Friday, May 30th, 2003

In the months prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bush Administration grappled with the dilemma of determining when enough was enough and military force had to take over where UN inspections left off. In a revealing interview in February, Secretary of State Powell gave us a window into his and the President’s thinking. Here is Secretary Powell’s response to Ted Koppel’s question about how much more time would be appropriate to give Hans Blix and his inspectors:

Just consider what the Iraqi permanent representative [to the United Nations] said after we all have said the declaration they submitted in December was inadequate, it was not full, it was not complete….What was his answer today? “Read it again. It’s all there.” It isn’t all there. The chief inspectors know that. We all know it. And so this is further evidence of Iraq just trying
to rope-a-dope this along, to keep it going until people lose interest and walk away.

We trust that the Secretary will hold to that thought. This is no time to give the Palestinians yet more slack to rebuild their terrorist infrastructure and negate the accomplishments of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield. Last June, President Bush declared that there can be no progress in Middle East peace efforts until there was “regime change” in the Palestinian Authority. What was needed in order to permit real peace negotiations was a replacement of the existing leadership, which continued to view terror as a legitimate instrument of policy, with those who did not. Abu Mazen’s assuming the post of Palestinian Prime Minister still begs that question, the effusive worldwide huzzahs notwithstanding.

Plainly, Arafat has emerged from the political ashes as the kingmaker. It is clear, perhaps humiliatingly so, that Mazen could never have secured the required approval by the Palestinian
parliament without Arafat’s blessing. Arafat also appears to have retained control over the negotiations with Israel. Over Mazen’s initial objection, he was able to insist on the appointment of his longtime henchman Saeb Erekat as minister in charge of peace negotiations with Israel. The notorious Arafat lieutenant Abed Rabbo was also appointed to the key post of minister for cabinet affairs.

Also referring to Israel’s demand that Mazen’s cabinet should place the war on terrorism at the top of its agenda, his Information Minister designate said, “This is an issue that no Palestinian could accept and it is also irrational.

Given the centrality of the security issue - indeed, Israel’s insistence on the dismantling of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Brigade as a precondition for the timelines provided in the so-called “roadmap” to even kick in - and strict adherence to the principle of reciprocity of performance, Amr’s statement is ominous indeed.

For himself, after its vote approving him as Prime Minister, Mazen told the Palestinian parliament that “there is no place for weapons except in the hands of the government. There is only one authority.” This is a promising note, even if he also mouthed most of Arafat’s time-worn political agenda.

In any event, it is important that we have seen this Palestinian movie before and Mazen must demonstrate that he is, in fact, ushering in a new era in Palestinian thinking before he is given the benefit of too much doubt.

Media Morons, Take A Bow

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

The Media Research Center is out with its annual “Best Notable Quotables” list of what it calls “the year’s worst reporting.” Here are just a few examples of the liberal bias and stupidity that come pouring out of the mouths and word processors of media types on a daily basis. (Visit www.mrc.org for the complete list.)

* “Good Morning America” co-host Charles Gibson, May 16: “This is interesting news that we get now, and it may put the president under a lot of heat today as the public learns that he knew, through his daily CIA intelligence briefings, that bin Laden had potential terror attack plans under way….It also calls into question what happened when Andy Card, Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, that morning went and whispered in the president’s ear, as the president was talking to a group of school students in Florida [on Sept. 11, 2001]. Was the president really surprised?”

* New York Times reporter Robert F. Worth, Feb. 24 “Week in Review” article: “As President Bush toured Asia last week, some world leaders worried publicly that the war on terrorism was starting to look suspiciously like the last great American campaign - against Communism….The McCarthy years in some ways were eerily similar to the present moment….Communists were often conceived as moral monsters whose deviousness and unwavering dedication to their faith made them capable of almost anything….The first victims of anti-Communist hysteria were immigrants, and hundreds of immigrants have been detained since Sept. 11, many with little apparent cause beyond the fact that they were Middle Eastern men.”

* AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman and CNN founder Ted Turner, during Feb. 11 remarks at Brown University: “The reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life….I think they [the 19 hijackers] were brave at the very least.”

* Former CBS newsreader Walter Cronkite, perhaps the most overrated man in the history of American journalism, proves that great minds think alike as he echoes Turner on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Sept. 9: “I think very definitely that foreign policy could have caused what has happened [last Sept. 11]….It certainly should be apparent now – it should be, for goodness sakes understood now, but it is not ? that the problem is this great division between the rich and the poor in the world. We represent the rich….Most of these other nations of Africa, Asia and South America and Central America are very, very, poor….This is a revolution in effect around the world. A revolution is in place today. We are suffering from a revolution of the poor and have-nots against the rich and haves, and that’s us.”

* New York Times reporter Fox Butterfield, not stopping to think that maybe there’s a direct correlation between point A and point B, Jan. 21: “Since the early 1970′s, the number of state prisoners has increased 500 percent, growing each year in the 1990′s even as crime fell.”

* Quote of the Year from Bill Moyers, the unctuous former Democratic White House aide and PBS fixture who went and had the following conniption fit on the Nov. 8 edition of his PBS show “Now,” three days after Republicans won control of Congress in the mid-term elections:

“The entire federal government – the Congress, the executive, the courts – is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate. That agenda includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to surrender control over their own lives. It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from the working people to the rich. It includes giving corporations the a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable. And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine.

“Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you like the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the white House, you will swoon over what’s coming. And if you like G-d in government, get ready for the Rapture….So it’s a heady time in Washington, a heady time for piety, profits and military power….”

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

Liberals Quoting Scripture: Beware The Jewish Politically-Correct Bible Thumpers

Friday, August 9th, 2002

When I was a lad we used to suffer from the frequent visits of missionaries who often canvassed our neighborhood, presumably because of the large number of Jewish families whose souls could be saved there.

Occasionally I would chat up these people, and at one point I asked about the training and preparation they undergo before taking to the streets to save our doomed souls. The missionary confided to me that she had learned 15 or 20 selected biblical quotations in a special seminar – including many especially chosen because the quotes were thought to hold persuasive power for Jewish listeners – and she simply pulled these out during missionary visits.

Doubtless some of the missionaries knew their Bible backward and forward, but the ones with whom I came into contact were apparently all one-day crash-course Bible thumpers. (I learned that all I needed to do to drive these neighborhood missionaries into a state of confused silence was to produce an alternative biblical quote not on their list of 15 or 20, or show them how their quotes of choice had been wrenched out of their overall context.)

This comes to mind because it is strongly reminiscent of a fad quite common these days among Jewish assimilated liberals and leftists in the United States. These people constitute the School of Jewish Politically-Correct Bible Thumpers. They advocate the ‘PC’ fads and programs of the American Left, while coating them with a thin veneer of supposedly biblical ethics.

Like the missionaries of my youth, they learn a dozen or so select biblical phrases, taken out of context, and argue that the Bible and traditional Judaism unambiguously require that one accept and support a left-wing political agenda. I assume that most readers of The Jewish Press are familiar with these folks.

Examples of Jewish politically-correct Bible thumping abound, the most outrageous, of course, being the Cheech-and-Chong ‘ethics’ and political platform of the editors of Tikkun magazine, featuring the ‘Politics of Meaning’ psychobabble promoted by ‘Rabbi’ Michael Lerner.

But many mainstream liberal leaders of the Jewish community also engage in biblical posturing in order to conscript scripture for support of liberal fads. Generally such ‘Bible-based’ PC preaching operates through conjuring up the ethics of the Prophets as scriptural underpinning for the Left’s political agenda.

The term ‘Prophetic Ethics’ is used to justify support for everything from affirmative action to abortion on demand, animal ‘rights’ to homosexual ?rights,? ecological activism to various and sundry redistributionist social programs.

The Oslo ‘peace accord,’ it should go without saying, was accorded a particularly hallowed place in the doxology of the Jewish politically-correct Bible thumpers.

What is one to make of all this? Let us begin by noting that the attempt by Jewish leftists to conjure up scriptural support for their political agenda might be somewhat more persuasive if these same people were practitioners of traditional Judaism. (Orthodox politically-correct Bible thumping is extremely rare, albeit not completely non-existent.)

In most cases, politically correct Bible thumpers are ‘scripturally motivated’ only under circumstances that they find convenient and with respect to those political causes they happen to find appealing. Otherwise they simply ignore everything else in scripture and halacha that does not fit their political agenda.

These folks are generally not Jews whose lifestyles are determined by biblical rules regarding, say, diet, Sabbath, sexual relations, etc. Indeed, when scripture clearly favors a moral or political position that is not fashionable, these same PC Bible thumpers suddenly decline to adapt themselves to biblical ethics.

At times they will go through contortions to force their supposed understanding of these ethics into a PC mold. For example, there is probably nothing as clear-cut as the biblical prohibition against homosexuality.

The very notion of ‘gay rights’ is completely antithetical to biblical morality; the Bible in fact explicitly labels sodomy a capital offense. (While such punishment was generally not literally applied in Jewish tradition, there is no doubt as to the disgust and condemnation with which the Bible views gay relations.)

But that did not stop the PC branch of the Reform movement from deciding that Reform rabbis can ordain gay ‘marriages.’ It is not clear why they did not at the same time decide that inter-species marriages could be ordained, as the biblical injunction against the latter is no more unambiguous than the prohibition against homosexuality.

Similarly, while the Jewish religious position on abortion is not identical with the one espoused by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, abortion on demand when a mother’s life is not in danger is hardly a position held by traditional Judaism.

One can accept or reject the scriptural view of homosexuality or abortion – it’s a free country. But if one is representing one’s political agenda as being biblically-based, why the arbitrarily selective distortion?

The biggest problem with PC appeals to ‘Prophetic Ethics’ and Jewish compassion is that there is absolutely no support in Jewish tradition for feel-good advocacy programs that actually exacerbate real-world problems.

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