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Soviet Propaganda and Overcoming Challenges

Friday, 18 December, 2015 - 1:06 pm

On July 20th, 1969, the Soviet propaganda machine was faced with a unique challenge: how to report the news that the US had effectively won the Space Race while maintaining Soviet “dignity”. Here’s what they came up with: For the past 10 years all the worlds super powers have been engaged in an intense Space Race. The race was won yesterday with the Soviet Union coming in second place and the United States coming in second to last. (Remember, there were only two nations engaged in the Space Race at the time.)

When someone has a certain agenda, they can distort anything - even what they see with their own eyes - to maintain their bias. When it comes to solving a problem, especially a serious and difficult one, we are very creative in finding ways to avoid the hard, and often painful, work.

A possibly less damaging, but in reality more insidious hurdle to solving serious challenges is crying. Yes, crying. It’s not unheard of for people to cry when faced with overwhelming challenges. In fact, you could argue that it’s normal and ok. And although it’s true that it’s normal and ok, it doesn’t help solve the problem.

There is a fascinating commentary on a detail of the narrative of Yosef and his brothers (which comes to it’s apex in this week’s Torah portion) that highlights this point.

When Yosef finally reveals his true identity to his brothers, the Torah describes a bittersweet moment that occurs between Yosef and his only brother from the same mother, Benyamin. They embrace and they shed bitter tears, seemingly over the 22 years they’ve been apart.

The commentaries though, tell us that the reason that they cried is actually due to what they perceived in each other’s future: Benyamin cried over the destruction of the Mishkan that would later happen in Yosef’s portion and Yosef cried over the destruction of the two Temples that would later happen in Benyamin’s portion.

Sounds fascinating but it leaves us wondering. If they perceived this destruction in their respective futures, why did they cry about the other’s destruction and not their own? Wouldn’t that be the more painful realization? Shouldn’t their own challenges be the cause for their crying?

In fact, this narrative is providing us with great wisdom and guidance; when it comes to our own challenges, when we perceive destruction in our own domain, we can’t cry - we must act! We have work to do to avoid, or at least to rectify, the situation. When we see destruction in another’s domain and we know that there is nothing we can do to assist, that’s when it causes us to cry. But to cry about our own challenges? That’s pointless - there’s so much that needs to be done!!

Remember this the next time you’re faced with a challenge - don’t allow yourself the comfort of crying (and admittedly it is comforting), all it does is distract us from the mission at hand. Instead, get up and start working towards a resolution, even the tiniest step forward is much better than crying.

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