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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Dealing with snobs

Daf Yomi Yevamos 68

I was working on our scholar-in-residence Shabbaton and had emailed a couple of colleagues inquiring as to their availability.  But no word back.  
“I can’t believe the attitude we get out here in Edmonton,” I kvetched to Rabbanit, “I guess we’re so meaningless in their big-city eyes that they don’t even have the decency to return an email!”

A few weeks later, I received the following email from one of the rabbis:
“So sorry for the delayed response.  I have been sick since Sukkot and have been very behind on my e-mails. I would be delighted to come at some point to Edmonton. However, due my current (still undiagnosed, but please G-d passing) illness, I cannot make plans for the spring of this year.  With G-d’s help, next year I will be back to full strength and would consider coming out.”

Concerning the priestly tithes, the Torah states, “No stranger shall partake of it.”
Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Hanina taught: The meaning of the verse is that G-d declares, “Strangeness, I say to you, but not mourning.”
Rashi explains: While a stranger – a non-cohen – may not partake of the tithes, a cohen who is in mourning may partake, despite the fact that he may not serve in the Temple.

All too often when we encounter people who come across as standoffish or lacking in warmth, we are quick to assume that they are elitist or not nice people.  ‘She didn’t respond to my email.  I can’t believe how rude she is.  He didn’t greet me with a big smile.  I can’t believe what a snob he is.’

In most situations, however, it has nothing to do with you.  They may appear to be treating you with ‘strangeness’ or contempt, but you have no idea what’s going on in their personal lives and occupying their thoughts.  They’re not snubbing you; they’re in ‘mourning,’ dealing with their own issues, oblivious to the way they’re dealing with others. 

Maybe they’re dealing with an illness or a death in the family.  Perhaps they’re burdened by financial troubles or are trying to get through a major crisis with their children.   Your kneejerk reaction is to assume that they’re being rude.   But stop for a moment and just imagine what issues they might be going through and you will find that your attitude and response will turn around in a moment.

Stop being offended when people fail to display instant warmth.  Whenever anyone treats you with ‘strangeness’, assume that they are in ‘mourning’ over some issue they are dealing with in their lives.   Embrace them, love them unconditionally.  They need you whether they know it or not; you just need to get over that fence they’re putting up.  May you always merit being the warmest spirit in the room and may you always judge others with the benefit of the doubt!