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Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

The most important skill of all

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Some are born with innate skills, others develop skills based on their experiences and personal circumstances. Most of the time having a particular skill is handy, but not essential. There is one skill however that is a moral obligation for every person to develop and perfect: The skill of seeing people for who they really are - a pure and holy soul that happens to be enclothed in a physical body.

All too often we make the serious mistake of thinking of people from a wholly physical standpoint. This inevitably leads to conflict, because physical beings take up space, and when one space is occupied there is no room for another.

When we feel our space being intruded upon we defend it with any means possible, sometimes even employing the lowest form of communication - personal attacks. We berate the intruder and vilify them, and this pushes them away from our space and we feel safe once again. But this is short lived, it’s not long before we have to defend our space again.

Because as long as we take up physical space, there is no room for another.

Unfortunately, this is all the more true this year, with our unusual political season. Politics is not a dinner table topic in good times, but it seems more true than ever this year. But even if we vehemently and passionately disagree with a person, there is no need to be disagreeable. We can respectfully and even vigorously debate the issues, never allowing personal animus to influence the discussion.

But this is only possible if we look at ourselves and others in the right way. If we remember that we are all, in our core, pure and holy souls - then we will maintain the appropriate respect for the other. If, however, we allow ourselves to slip back into the physicality paradigm, we will soon find ourselves locked in bitter conflict and personal insult.

Because as long as we take up physical space, there is no room for another.

I will concede that this does take effort, we are after all physical beings. But with regular training we can strengthen this skill until it becomes second nature.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

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For some reason, being sophisticated has become a goal of modern society. Somehow, if one doesn’t enjoy opera or appreciate fine wine, they haven’t “arrived.”  There’s this notion that sophistication is a hallowed value. In reality however, this is furthest from the truth.

 I would argue that sophistication is in fact ruining lives every day. Sophistication makes a person feel less confident and causes them to second guess every choice they make.

It’s unsophisticated to eat what you enjoy, it’s unsophisticated to wear clothes you feel comfortable in. (Just like it’s unsophisticated to end a sentence with a preposition.) And sophistication ruins relationships because it’s unsophisticated to let your guard down and really be open with another person.

Marriage? Belief in G-d? Those are the epitome of unsophistication! It’s much more sophisticated to be single; it’s so much more sophisticated to doubt.

A sophisticated person won’t give you a straight answer, they won’t tell you what they think; they’ll tell you what you want to hear. I wonder if sophisticated people even have their own ideas, or if they only form them after they’ve seen the idea expressed in a NY Times editorial? They say that a sophisticated person could tell you to go to hell in such a way that you’d be looking forward to the trip.

In 1977, Apple advertised it’s first PC with the tagline, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” - and although I think Apple itself has become an icon of sophistication - there’s a lot of truth to that statement.

Simplicity is allowing yourself to live, love and laugh freely - without concern for how your actions may be misunderstood. Simplicity clears away the clutter in your life and allows you to bask in the sunshine. Simplicity encourages you, it makes you feel worthwhile and needed. And when you treat others with simplicity, it makes them feel that way too.

Simplicity is attractive, it’s the best way to make friends and create relationships. And simplicity is the key to making a marriage work. And you know what? Simplicity is what G-d wants from us too.

So please, keep it simple. Because after all, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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