Friday, 13 November 2009


There are times one Jew will turn to another, one person to another and pour out their heart or at least some of their story. There are times that you might even be the one another Jew turns to with some pressing need.

What do you do if their problem sounds big and you just don't know what to say? You don't have any answers, you don't have any suggestions, you don't have any leads or ideas. What can you do?

Some will respond with:

- "I have never heard of such a problem. You are the only one I have heard of with such a strange story!"

Does this help? Does it reassure another or perhaps open that door to loneliness and panic, G-d forbid.

Another might say:

"All beginnings are hard", or "everyone has problems or everyone is suffering in today's time!"

Does that help? Does it reduce the problem? The problem has just been magnified to be a world-wide pandemic. What a tragedy - well now how does that help the other feel able to tackle their difficulty?

Some might like to say: "It can't be that bad, it is just you."

Hm, that really feels sympathetic.

Some might say, "well you really need to go to a therapist (meaning a psychologist)"

Now you have really helped the other feel comforted, reassured, heard.

The list of unhelpful answers can be added to, but I would rather short circuit that to offer a different suggestion.

I have a special friend who has a wonderful way of responding to others:

"I don't know what to say, I don't have any answers, but I feel your pain, I am here for you and I am ready to listen."

How does this answer differ? This person is humble enough to start out by admitting that some problems only Hashem can answer, and in truth Hashem is the One who provides ALL solutions, but to feel the pain of another, to hear what they need to voice, that a person can do.

What is the result? It makes another feel heard, acknowledged, supported and honoured as a human being in whatever stage or phase of life they are currently in.

Another possible option is to say, I am ready to listen, together let us brain storm any ideas or thoughts we can come up with that might help. And if you are not ready for that, I can just listen.

The real Tzaddikim were known to do just that. To listen, to cry, openly many times, to pray for the health and well being of another.

Let us follow the example of the Tzaddikim. We dont have to find answers, we don't have to sum everything up to be a world problem or even a tragedy. We can just listen, listen actively and be ready to support, care and hear the other.

Good Shabbos

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