I often speak to pairs of people, such as married couples, roommates, or friends, when they’re having an argument. I listen to both sides, and realize that they’re both right. If I only hear one side, the other side seems irrational. If I hear the second side, it seems to be the rational side. As many times as I listen to the two sides, they both make sense. How’s it possible that they’re both right, and how do I choose the person to ask to “give in” to the other?
I believe that the following is the source of many of the conflicts. People come into contact with information which they believe to be true, in several different ways: 1) They can “feel” it to be true, which is considered intuitive; 2) They can experience it with their five senses, such as seeing, or hearing, something taking place; 3) They can be told by someone else that it’s true; 4) They can learn about it from books, and the internet; 5) They can know that’s true because the Torah, our Chachamim, or their Rabbonim, told them that it’s true.
I’d like to discuss each of these forms of “knowing”, after which it should be clear how many arguments are allowed to happen and, if people were open-minded, those arguments would settle themselves. 1) What people know intuitively is usually the strongest form of knowledge. It’s knowledge that they don’t allow to be challenged, even by the most compelling of arguments. However, the truth is that much of what people consider to be intuition is really their personal bias.
Here’s a common example. Many parents don’t want their children to attend out of town schools. They base their position on intuition, saying that “children should be near their mother, and this child REALLY needs to be near her/his mother”. When probing further, it’s really the mother who isn’t ready to let go. It’s personal, emotional and, often, selfish.
Intuitive knowledge resists all form of proofs, making intuition a powerful tool when it’s used objectively, and very damaging when it’s used manipulatively, to rationalize why a person is stubborn. The problem is that many people believe that they’re objective when, in truth, they aren’t.
2) The next form of knowledge is what can be seen, touched, heard, and smelled. People will see something, and assume that they saw the entire incident. They believe that this’ll qualify them to “decide” the emotional background that led to the event. For example, people who’ve been insulted aren’t open to the suggestion that the insulter was very stressed, but they’d rather believe him/her to be a bad person. Such interpretations are based on their personal bias. Despite this bias, people truly believe that they’re only repeating what happened, and not giving their personal opinions. In addition, information gleaned from the five senses becomes etched in people’s minds, and makes a greater than deserved impression on them. They become unwilling to listen to any information that’s contrary to what they saw. This is true even when the information doesn’t contradict what they saw, but offers a different angle on what they saw.
In addition, although they’ve seen something, they don’t allow for the possibility, and maybe the probability, that time created the changes or that the event was an anomaly.
3-4) Knowledge heard from others, read in books, or seen on the internet, is the most subjective. People’s level of belief is often based on their previous attitudes, and agendas. People can say all sorts of things, and any view can be supported by the internet.
5) Knowledge based on the Torah, our Chachamim, and Rabbeim, is the truest of all sources of information. Nevertheless, it’s often kept on the periphery of people’s minds. It becomes nothing more than intellectual knowledge, and isn’t internalized. It’s less “real” to people, even though it’s truer than anything else that they know.
The reason people don’t internalize Torah knowledge is because it doesn’t utilize the senses. This causes it to be less “real” and, therefore, less “believed” by people, even though they may talk as if they’ve internalized its lessons. The adage that “seeing is believing” is true, unless people are true B’nei Torah, and there aren’t enough of them.
How “true” specific pieces of information actually are, is generally inconsistent with how much people believe that information. This is a significant reason why people argue. Here are some examples:
Many husbands are aware that their wives are overworked and can use a break, either because they’re juggling a career and family, or they have a large family. Intellectually, they know their wives deserve help. Husbands also “know” that they work hard, and can use a break, even though this’ll mean that their wives may not get a break. There are usually these possibilities for husbands: a) Allow their wives to take a break; b) Share the break time with their wives; or c) Take the break for themselves. Some husbands choose to take the break for themselves.
Their need for a break is more “real” to them, than the other information, that their wives need a break, and which they know to be true. Both need a break, but the husband embraces what he believes is a combination of intuitiveness and senses, and this overrides the reality that the wives are as right as the husbands. The husbands don’t sense their wives needs. They only know, on an intellectual level, that the wives also need a break. Wives are as guilty as are partners, roommates, and any two people who interact with each other. Their personal needs are also more important to them. The same is true when people interact with Hashem, and have responsibilities, such as Mitzvahs, to fulfill. Their personal needs often override what Hashem tells them to do.
How should people train themselves to act on information that’s more intangible, and that they do not “feel”? How can people train themselves to realize that other people’s needs are as real as their own? Taking intellectual knowledge, and internalizing it, is a lifetime project. Our Chachamim call it being Nosei B’ol Im Chaveiro, carrying your friends’ burdens with you. Appreciating the burdens of others, even when people have their own burdens, requires them to make a deliberate decision to “change channels” from their own burdens, and focus on the burdens of others. Doing this would make their friends’ experiences, equally “real” (see numbers one, intuition, and number two, senses). This’ll allow people to have discussions, make healthy decisions, and live a life that’ll allow them to do what’s really right, instead of what feels right.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Parshas Re’eh By Rabbi Shmuel Gluck: To Print Or Download This Dvar Torah Click Here This Parsha discusses Tzedaka (maser), and its effect on people’s personal wealth. The well-known Pasuk says, Aser Te’a’ser, and the Gemara explains, Aser Bishvil Shetisasher, give charity so that you will become rich. I would like to offer an understanding of this pledge of Hashem to people, that they will get wealthy by giving Tzedaka.
The Gemara says that people who use an abundance of water when they wash their hands before eating, will receive an abundance of wealth. The Mishna Berurah explains that if the people don’t become wealthy, it’s because they did Aveiros that withheld the Brocho from them.Readers may believe that Segulos and Havtochos are foolproof, and may wonder whether they can be cancelled. This is how I understand this subject.
There’s a difference between a reward/punishment, and a natural outcome. I would like to offer a parenting technique as an illustration. Explaining to children that if they don’t clean up their mess they will have to go to sleep early is a punishment, because making a mess and going to sleep aren’t related. There is no cause and effect relationship between the two.
If a parent tells the child who made the mess that, “I would have loved to give you a ride, but it took me twenty minutes to clean up your mess. I don’t have the fifteen minutes needed to take you to your friend”. This response isn’t punishment; it’s a cause and effect relationship. The child’s action caused the parent’s rejection of the request.
Water used to be costly. People were hired to draw it from a well. When people washed their hands without being concerned with how much water they used, they deserved to have the money returned to them by Hashem, since they didn’t spend it for personal reasons, but for a Mitzvah. In addition, they deserve more money, because they have demonstrated that they use the money Hashem gave them, (or possibly a better word would be entrusted to them), wisely. The wealth that Hashem gives to people who give Tzedaka isn’t a reward, it’s a natural cause and effect. Nevertheless, another cause and effect, or punishment, may counter this Mitzvah, and they may not become wealthy.
Hashem offers all forms of Brochos, such as health, wealth, the opportunity to have simple, and not complex, lives, and other privileges, to those who demonstrate that they use those “tools” wisely. Davening is always important. Living one’s life in a manner that confirms the wise usage of those Brochos, may be just as important.