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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Arguing vs. Communicating

Daf Yomi Yevamos 56

Will and Jada were in my office for marriage counseling but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.  Every time she spoke, he interrupted to correct her version of the story.  And every time he spoke, she interrupted him.   Instead of talking to one another, they were trying to talk over one another!  Neither could hear anything the other was saying and I too could hardly follow what was going on.

Our Rabbis taught: If a regular Jewess capable of hearing was betrothed to a cohen capable of hearing, who became deaf before he had time to marry her, she may not eat terumah (tithes).  If a son was born to her she may eat.  If the son died, Rabbi Nathan said, she may eat; but the Sages said: She may not eat.

What is R. Nathan's reason?  Rabba replied: Because she was eating before. Said Abaye to him: What now?  Would a Jewess who was married to a cohen who subsequently died be entitled to continue to eat terumah because she was eating it before?  Rather, as soon as he dies his sanctity is withdrawn from her.   So here too, as soon as the son dies, his sanctity is withdrawn from her!

Instead, said Rabbi Joseph, Rabbi Nathan holds that marriage with a deaf cohen does entitle the woman to eat terumah, and that no prohibition is to be made in respect of the marriage of a deaf cohen as a preventive measure against the betrothal of a deaf cohen. Said Abaye to him: If so, what need was there to state ‘If a son was born to her’? — Because of the Rabbis. Then Rabbi Nathan should have expressed his disagreement with the Rabbis in the first clause!

The Gemara explains: He allowed the Rabbis to finish their statement and then expressed his disagreement with them.

The incredible lessons the Talmud teaches us often come almost parenthetically to the subject matter at hand.  Here, the Talmud teaches us derech eretz – good manners.   If you have an opinion that is contrary to the person talking, wait for them to finish and then offer your two cents. 

The first thing I said to Jada and Will is that they should stop talking when the other was trying to talk.  And then the next thing to do before arguing is to try to repeat what the other had said back to them.  Not only does that demonstrate that you are listening to your spouse, but it validates their opinion.  Once you have validated, then you can offer your piece. 

Often you will find that having listened to them you can now much better appreciate where they are coming from.  But of course you can’t do that unless you have properly tuned in to their contention to begin with.  Until you have allowed them to speak and listened to what they have to say, you have no right to argue, because you don’t even know what you are arguing about!


Respect other people’s opinions, especially your spouse’s.  Listen carefully to what they are saying.  And only once they have finished talking, then should you say what you need to.  I promise, you will merit much healthier, deeper and more fruitful relationships with family, friends and colleagues!