("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.)
A crowd gathered to hear the latest news. Joe rejoiced as Carol cried. Sam danced while Chaya stared in disbelief and horror. At the same time, Chaim Yankel wrote quick and fast notes, writing feverishly. To the onlooker, this was strange. What news could bring about such diverse reaction?
As he got closer to the group, he looked at the news report that they were sharing. “Bert Gold won the lottery,” he read aloud. “So what? Why do you all care? And why in such a different way?”
“You don’t get it” Chaim Yankel explained. “They all know Bert Gold. Joe and Sam are good friends of Bert and look forward to sharing his good fortune with him. Joe is exceptionally happy for Bert because he knows that Bert was kind of depressed since his girlfriend dumped him.”
“Ok,” said the onlooker, “but what about the woman who is crying?”
“Oh, Carol? She knows Bert too. She used to buy lottery tickets with Bert and split the cost and the prizes 50-50. They didn’t win too much so she stopped buying two weeks ago. I guess she is crying because she regrets the move.”
“And the other woman – the one who looks like she’s in disbelief?” asked the onlooker.
“That’s Chaya. She was the one who told Bert that he would never amount to anything. That he was worthless, right before she dumped him. I guess he’s worth something after all.”
“So one bit of news brings on such an array of difference. Interesting,” noted the onlooker. “But tell me one more thing please. How do YOU know all of this and what were you writing?”
“Me?” said Chaim Yankel, “I’m Chaim Yankel, I know everything and everyone. You see, I’m a Schnorrer. I need to update my notes, I got a few new customers out of this deal – especially one recently wealthy Bert Gold!”
Rav Yosef Leib Nindik once noted that Yisro and the other nations of the world all heard about the different earth-shattering events that accompanied Yetzias Mitzrayim. Yet, only Yisro took the message to heart. How could it be that the nations of the world heard about the splitting of the sea and went on with their lives so simply? How could it be that only Yisro came forward to react to the story he heard?
Rav Yosef Leib explained that each nation heard the story differently. Each one listened to the story with its own perspective. Edom was astonished. Moav was in fear. Canaan shuddered waiting to receive a parallel punishment from Hashem. Amalek too, was impressed by the experiences but its perspective was different and drew them into war with Bnei Yisrael.
Only Yisro used the power of hearing in a positive, proactive manner. Only he chose to hear the news and use it to better himself. That is the Torah-way of listening to the news – using that which we hear in order to better ourselves.
We often hear news – either of world events or even close to home and we are not always sure which way to take it. Sometimes we are momentarily amused and then go on with our lives indifferent. Is that useful?
On the other hand, when we hear of things that affect other people, be they ones we know or ones we don’t, do we take the moment to apply what we have heard and to internalize it appropriately? If we utilize the opportunities that simple news can provide for us in terms of recognizing Hashem in the world, we can develop a great sense of awareness of Him and grow ourselves in the process.
How do our views shape the way we see the news? How can WE use the news to help us with our views?
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.