Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Learning How To Convince Someone

There are a lot of stray dogs floating around my neighborhood. They reminded me of this oldy but goody...

My favorite son is the Rasha. In the picture books, he is wearing shorts, a t-shirt that has a picture of Jimi Hendrix, wrap around sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap. In short, my type of guy. Our goal is to bring this Rasha back into the fold. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out, at least he came to the seder - the fifth son didn't even show up to the seder. So let's focus on him. 

The Rasha asks מה העבודה הזאת לכם - "What is all of this 'work' that Hashem commanded YOU". We blunt his teeth and answer by telling him that since he excluded himself from the community, he had been in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed.

How does this help educate the Rasha? Sounds counterproductive to me. Only the dentist will benefit by getting some good business. 

I will answer. But first, a story I recently saw.....:)

I have a friend, we'll call him Elkanah, a resident of Neve Yaakov, where the nightly howling of a band of dogs from a nearby valley disturbed his sleep and that of his family. Elkanah was appointed by his neighbors, who also suffered from fatigue due to the nightly "concert", to put an end to it. Among his neighbors was a gentleman named "Grisha", an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, whose nickname was "The Fridge", due to his very large dimensions.

Elkanah called the city hot line who passed him on to health services and from there to the head veterinarian and then to the local doctor who claimed that the neighborhood council is responsible and so on and so forth. And in the background - the howling dogs.

Elkana generously distributed compliments to everyone with whom he spoke, but the desired results were not forthcoming. The nightly symphony turned peoples lives into a living hell.

One night, the sound of the howling dogs ceased and it was a wonder. Nobody knew whom to thank. At a tenant meeting one Saturday night, Grisha entered and boomed: "Do you know who put an end to the trouble?"

"Who?" Everybody asked. 

Grisha laughed "Me!! You have to learn from me how to convince!"

Before being asked, he continued: "I called the hot line and spoke to the person responsible on Thursday and told him that he doesn't know me and that it's not worth your while to know me. I am called Grisha, and I am telling you that if the story with the dogs doesn't end today, I am going to slaughter them and put their corpses next to your front door.

Grisha took a sip from his black coffee and continued: "He tried to play tough guy and said 'Are you threatening me?' I told him 'I am not threatening you. I am threatening the dogs. But I know where you live.....'"

Learn, concluded Grisha, how to convince someone.
The Rasha is asking, according to the gemara "What good are all of these mitzvos? They are just a big pain! I am religious at heart and that is enough." We answer him by blunting his teeth which means that we try to neutralize his arrogance [Ohr Hachaim]. Then we say "Look at what happened in Egypt. Because the Jews kept the mitzva of Korban Pesach that Hashem gave them and put the blood on the doorpost, their lives were saved. Had you been there and not kept the laws - you would not have been saved." Thereby, we try to illustrate to him the importance and practical benefit of keeping the mitzvos. We hope that this convinces him.

[Based on the preface to the sefer Shu"t Tuv Taam V'daas of Rav Shlomo Kluger ztz"l]