("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
(Hat tip to my friend, Rabbi Naftali Lavenda for the story)
In ancient Greece , Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?“
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.“
“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test.“
“The first filter is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?“
“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…“
‘All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?“
“No, on the contrary…“
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?“
“No, not really.“
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?“
The truth is that Gossip has the potential to affect every aspect of a Jew’s (and perhaps a human’s) social existence. Studies abound as to how and why we gossip, recognizing that humans get a thrill and a rush when one has information and can be the “one” to share it to the tremendous effects gossip (and rumor) have on workplace and social morale.
Businesses have actually charged their management teams to work on ways to curb gossip & rumor because productivity and efficiency can be ruined by gossip, reputations can be harmed by gossip, promotions lost to gossip and in general, companies can be open to mistrust in team situations when people fear being a part of the gossip or rumor mill surrounding the water cooler. In general studies find that companies where the rumor mill runs strong, generally discover employees with poor morale and diminished employee satisfaction. In technical terms, it brings a company to a grinding halt.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in this week’s parsha when the reports brought back by the Miraglim were slanderous and led to extreme social dissatisfaction among the Jewish people. It is no surprise why the Ribbono Shel Olam decided that the fitting punishment for the nation’s coming to a grinding halt was that their mission would come to a grinding halt as well. A nation whose citizens cannot see beyond themselves and their own needs cannot work together to conquer, settle and thrive together in Eretz Yisrael.
What can WE do to stem the tide of rumor and gossip in our midst? How can we fortify ourselves (and teach our kids) that it’s not only “OK” but even “Ideal” to get out of rumor mongering and gossip situations?
What are some practical steps we can take to banish the “community buster” of rumor/gossip mongering from within our home?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.