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. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).

Fido the dog was walking past a property one day when he was suddenly confronted by a large black dog who barked ferociously through the fence at him.

“What are you doing?’ asked Fido.

“I’m guarding this property.” responded the black dog.

“What are you barking at me for? asked Fido.

“Because you’re a threat.  Everyone has the potential to break in and steal from me, so I’m not taking any risks and am barking at everyone,” came the big dog’s reply.

Fido shrugged his shoulders and walked away, thinking about how much energy the black dog was unnecessarily wasting.

The next day, he walked past the same property, but instead of being confronted by the vicious guard dog, he was met by a petite fluffy puppy.

“What happened to the large black dog?” he asked.

“He annoyed his owners by barking all of the time, so they gave him away and replaced him with me.” replied the fluffy pup.

“You don’t look very scary.” observed Fido.

“I’m not.  You never have to worry about me being too angry.”

“What would you do if someone tried to steal from you?” asked Fido.

“Why would anyone try to steal from me?  I’m such a nice cute doggy that no-one would ever take advantage of me.”

Fido shrugged his shoulders and walked away, hoping that the little ball of fluff would be OK.

The next day he walked past the same property and was met by a large golden retriever.

“What happened to the little ball of fluff?” Fido asked.

“Some intruders came last night and all he did was roll over to have his belly scratched while the place was ransacked.” replied the retriever.

“So, what’s your strategy for guarding this place?”  asked Fido.

“I’ve learned that not everyone’s a threat, so there’s no point in barking at everyone and keeping them at a distance, but I’ve also learned that being nice and polite won’t always cut it either as not everyone has my best interest at heart.  Others will always know that I’m here, but I feel comfortable enough with myself that I don’t need to rant and rave to be heard or look after everyone else’s needs to be liked.  I’ll just be calm and clear when communicating, decreasing the risk of being taken the wrong way.”

“I think I’ll be seeing a lot more of you,” said Fido, suitably impressed as he went on his way.

Moshe Rabbeinu meets with Hashem multiple times at the beginning of the Book of Shemos and receives instructions to go speak to Pharaoh. Each time he is asked to speak, Moshe tells Hashem that he wants to turn down the mission and asks Hashem to appoint someone else.

In Parshas Shemos, Hashem appoints Aharon to speak on his behalf. Yet, in this week’s Parsha, Hashem clarifies each of the brothers’ responsibilities when it comes to speaking. “Behold I have made you an Elokim to Pharaoh and Aharon shall be your Novi “(7:1). But why the 2 distinct roles? What was the message?

Rav Mattisyahu Solomon Shlita cites Rashi who explains that Moshe’s job was to be assertive in mission and speak to Pharaoh from a position of authority while Aharon had the job to explain and interpret the message so that it would be heard and understood by the Egyptian king. Rav Mattisyahu added that when one speaks to any challenging entity – whether it be a bully or a bullying nature like the Yetzer HaRa – it does not help to attack it with aggressiveness alone. At the same time, reasoning with a strong opponent is not enough either. One needs to confirm a firm stance of where s/he stands while at the same time being able to assertively explain his/her position calmly to convey comfort with one’s role.

Knowing who you are, what you stand for and how and when to express yourself with clarity and surety guarantees success in any challenge you confront in life.

Have you ever felt pressured or bullied by an internal or external power in your life?

How might you use Assertiveness as a tool for approaching and dealing with the conflict?

 Let’s  “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting  discussion into our homes and communities