Reflections for the secular New Year

‘Tis the season to communicate.

New Year's fioreworks 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
New Year's fioreworks 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One Jane Gordon shared her reflections about Christmas in an article which appeared this past week in one of the British papers.
She described how her relationship with her husband slowly drifted apart as she began to primarily focus on promoting her career rather than nurturing her relationships with her husband and children. Following 25 years of marriage and much encouragement from her friends regarding the advantages of being liberated, she divorced, anticipating a more convenient lifestyle.
Gordon explains that 10 years down the line, she looks at the Christmas tree and is reminded of her mother who would refer to the holiday as “the capital city of family,” and every Christmas she realizes how far that reference is from the lonesome truth in which she finds herself as every year on Christmas her three children spend the entire day with their father and she sits at home passing the time alone. This year she spent the holiday with her brother and sister-in-law only to be filled with envy as she witnessed their successful marriage and what she describes as “a family home which would serve as a haven for their children and grandchildren for years to come.”
Gordon concludes regretfully, “I cannot change the past, but if I had known in 2002 what I know now, perhaps I would have managed to save my marriage. Maybe if everyone who was facing a separation were to realize and understand the long-term effects of divorce, then perhaps they, too, would want to attempt to stay together.”
ONCE A week I serve as a guidance counselor for a haredi primary school.
This past week an aggravated parent called me complaining that her son’s rabbi had commented on his exam, “I am sorry, I cannot help your son. I wish I could help him more but I am not sure what I can do.” The parent felt, correctly so, that this was a highly inappropriate and discouraging remark.
When I approached the rabbi he explained to me that he was merely venting his frustration in an effort to help the child, to which I responded that the intentions he expressed verbally were not the same as those which were written down. I explained to the rabbi how careful one must be regarding communication, particularly when it comes to writing things down, as often the message is understood in the wrong context.
Recently, Yediot Aharonot ran an article about a study conducted in Israel by the social sciences department of the University of Haifa. In a research sample of 591 students from three high schools, they found that 94 percent of the students regularly surf the Internet and send texts and e-mails from their phones while classes are in session; 91% listen to music on their iPods during class and that, overall, students use their phones during more than 61% of their class time.
Technology is wonderful, but it can also serve as an impediment to our children’s ability to express and expound upon their thoughts and feelings.
The most essential ingredient for any relationship to succeed is communication.
Parents should learn how to relate to their children, spouses should engage in dialogue, teachers should encourage their students to question, challenge and primarily to listen.
Underestimating the importance of communication can result in broken marriages, dysfunctional relationships and resorting to artificial and insincere methods of interaction.
THIS WEEK the Jewish calendar marks the conclusion of Genesis with the departure of Jacob, and the beginning of Exodus. The legacy of Jacob is established not only through the blessings which he provided for his children (representative of the entire Jewish nation) before he died, but more importantly by the fact that he would demonstrate to them the importance of relating to every person as an individual, necessitating communication particularly with those who are closest to you.
This week also ushers in the secular New Year, and an election in Israel is swiftly approaching which will impact the next few years, so here’s a New Year’s resolution to contemplate. Perhaps it is time for all of us, politicians, leaders, teachers, students and parents, to put down our blackberries and iPads and talk to the person next to us to help ensure a fortuitous future.
The writer teaches at Yeshiva Hesder Kiryat Gat and serves as a lecturer for the IDF rabbinate, as well as for the Menachem Begin Heritage Center Israel Government Fellows. He is also an author and lecturer on Israel, religious Zionism and Jewish education.