JUST ONE KIND WORD, A LISTENING EAR, & A SMILE

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

INSIGHTS ON PARSHAT VAYERA FROM BITE SIZE TORAH


Avraham was all about chessed (loving kindness).


In his personal life he strove for simplicity, but when it came to guests, he went all out. His life was dedicated to kindness for others - in abundance.


While we may not have the capability of achieving Avraham’s exact level of selfless chessed, we can take a few steps in the right direction, and adopt some of his guiding principles.


Ever notice that there are some individuals that are “people magnets”? People with “Avraham-like” personalities that others gravitate towards?


Rav Pam shares 3 very basic and practical steps to help channel our “inner Avraham”, and incorporate his essence into our daily lives;[1]


1. One kind word

The Rambam tells us that we should strive to be the first to greet every person… “וּמַקְדִּים שָׁלוֹם לְכָל הָאָדָם כְּדֵי שֶׁתְּהֵא רוּחָן נוֹחָה הֵימֶנּוּ.”[2] In other words, say hello when you see people. You never know the kind of day someone is having, and therefore, you also never know what that one kind word can do to lift their spirits.


2. Listen to People

In Mishlei we learn, "דְּאָגָ֣ה בְלֶב אִ֣ישׁ יַשְׁחֶ֑נָּה וְדָבָ֖ר ט֣וֹב יְשַׂמְּחֶֽנָּה"[3] (If there is anxiety in a man’s mind let him quash it, and turn it into joy with a good word). Sometimes people don’t need advice, they just need someone to listen to them and validate what they are saying. A listening ear is usually more therapeutic than good advice. Leave the advice to a licensed professional or a Rabbi. Good listeners make the best kind of friends.


3: Awareness of Body Language

In Pirkei Avot it says "וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת"[4] (receive every person with a pleasant expression). Body language can often speak louder than words. In fact, Rav Avraham Grodzinski was known to have spent hours practicing his smile in front of a mirror, and years on greeting others pleasantly. Even during his darkest times in the Holocaust, he practiced his smile. Aside from the fact that your face is a public domain, smiling is good for you. Smiling is known to reduce stress, improve the immune system, and releases mood-elevating hormones. And the best part is, smiles are highly contagious and free, so share the wealth!


It is really important to not only develop an awareness of your own body language, but to read the body language of others. Do you ever notice someone backing off when you go to hug them? Or someone squirming in their seat when they hear something uncomfortable? Learn to "read the room", and be sensitive to your surroundings. Not the audience to crack sarcastic jokes? Save it for those who you know won't be offended. Body language is actually pretty loud when you learn to tune into it.

[1] Rav Pam, Atara Lamelech, a collection of essays on ethical questions.


[2] Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Deot, 5


[3] Tehillim 12:25


[4] Shammai, Pirkei Avot 1:15

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