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Complete Thoughts

12/11/2020 10:31:55 AM

Dec11

We can all be guilty of cutting people off in the middle of their thoughts or sentences, myself included.  In my family, growing up to get a word in edgewise was like being a lion waiting to pounce on your prey.  You had to wait for your moment.  It wasn’t about turns; it was about making sure your voice got heard in the cacophony of other voices. If you didn’t interrupt or fight to be heard, you didn’t stand a chance.

I have come to find that my experience might not be unique.  I have noticed on TV and listening to conversations that people are constantly interrupting each other before the person speaking has a chance to finish their thought. We need to start letting people finish their sentences.  I can't tell you the number of discussions I have observed where someone is in the middle of a thought or sentence and has been cut off. One notion our tradition seems to emphasize time and again is to let people finish their thoughts even if you disagree with them. The Talmud is replete with conversations- many of them arguments- between people, but none of those thoughts are half-thoughts. The debates between the house of Hillel and the house of Shamai raged for years, but they never cut each other off. For instance the house of Shamai thought we should start with eight candles and remove one for each night. The house of Hillel thought that we should increase one candle each night. What I want to highlight here is not the teaching about whether we should be increasing light or decreasing light each night.  What is of importance in this lesson is that while the House of Shamai ultimately lost out on their point of view, they were allowed to finish their thoughts.

Allowing people to finish their thought is a spiritual skill that strengthens patience, understanding, and listening.  We should be aware that by allowing the other person to finish their thought, we are becoming better people.  In the Amidah we ask God to hear our prayers.  Imagine how you would feel about yourself and God if God only listened to a part of your prayers and not the full prayer of your heart.  Let us attempt to give each other the honor and respect that we ourselves are deserving of by allowing others, no matter what they are saying, to finish their thoughts.

Tue, January 26 2021 13 Shevat 5781