GARY TOLCHINSKY ARTICLES
Articles by Gary Tolchinsky, Director
Jewish Spiritual Response (www.jewishspiritualresponse.org)
Gary Tolchinsky is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where he studied mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He has spoken at synagogues and other organizations on Jewish perspectives to create more peaceful relationships. In addition, he has spoken on different Jewish topics for the Lincoln Square Synagogue Beginners program. He is on the Advisory Board of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and has a longstanding involvement in issues relating to Jewish unity and identity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Articles Reprinted With Permission from The Jewish Press)
TEN AFFIRMATIONS FOR A PEACEFUL YEAR
(Published September 14, 2012)
As we begin the New Year it is with a sense of hope that we can avoid the painful arguments, hurtful remarks and misunderstandings which have harmed our relationships in the past. We seek to make amends with friends and family over the High Holidays and resolve that things will be different in the future. But moving forward, we may also wonder if we can really change patterns of relating that have been perpetuated for years or decades.
Many people recognize the power of affirmations to help create our reality, even if we don't initially believe what we are saying. In a sense, by constantly affirming what we want to become, we create the motivation to actualize it. Of course, words alone have minimal impact if they are not concretized through actions.
What follows are ten affirmations to increase our ability to reduce or eliminate many of the contentious interactions we wish could have averted. With G-d's help, they can provide a foundation for a more peaceful future for each of us as individuals and as part of the Jewish people.
1. I Place A Great Value On Maintaining Peaceful Relationships And Am Willing To Invest The Time And Effort To Actualize This Value.
We all say we want more peaceful relationships. But how much do we want them? If we really want a job, we might seek advice from mentors, study the field we are interested in, speak to people in the field, etc. This could require a lot of effort on our part, but it would be part of the price we pay to hopefully find a job/career that gives us satisfaction. Even if economic circumstances or industry trends prevent us from getting that job, at least we know we did all we could to make it happen.
So it is with creating a climate for peace. In this endeavor, the work could be reading books that outline ways to avoid conflict; preparing for encounters with difficult people by anticipating their behavior and strategizing in advance how to deal with them; seeking advice from a trusted friend and praying for the strength not to react with anger when our buttons are pushed the wrong way.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin writes in his book, Harmony With Others: Formulas, Stories, And Insights: "When you've integrated a love of peace, you will be willing to put in much energy and effort to attain it…How do you build up a love of peace? The same way you build up positive feelings toward another person: You focus on the virtues. The more virtues you see in someone, the more positively you will feel towards him. Reflect on the benefits and virtues of peace.
"A question to keep in mind is: If I had an intense love of peace, what would I be willing to say and do? So before getting involved in a quarrel, ask yourself: Compared to my ultimate purpose in life, how important is this…Will I regret that I did not quarrel when I look back at my entire life?"
2. I Accept Responsibility For My Words And Actions And Their Power To Create Peace Or Divisiveness.
In most arguments, it's easy to look at our adversary and find one or more reasons why he/she is responsible for the acrimony between us. Indeed, these reasons may even be valid. But this focus prevents us from acknowledging our own role in the dispute and our power to change the destructive dynamic. On the other hand, accepting responsibility will allow us to seek alternative ways of dealing with the substance of the dispute. We will strive to use non-threatening language, moderate our tone of our voice, strive to see the other's perspective, etc. As Dr. Richard Carlson noted in his best-selling book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff…And It's All Small Stuff: "In terms of personal happiness, you cannot be peaceful while at the same time blaming others. Surely there are times when other people and/or circumstances (contribute) to our problems, but it is we who must rise to the occasion and take responsibility for our own happiness."…This doesn't mean that you don't hold yourself accountable for their reactions, but that you hold yourself accountable for your own happiness and for your reactions to other people and the circumstances around you."
3. I Accept That G-d May Bring Difficult People Into My Life To Help Me Grow In A Spiritual Direction.
If we are going through a difficult challenge and meet a compassionate stranger who helps us, it is easy to be grateful that G-d brought this person into our life. It's much harder to thank G-d for the person who makes our life more stressful. However, this person may be an unwitting messenger to help us recognize a part of our character that needs to be addressed.
If I'm struggling to become more patient, perhaps the handyman I hired to fix a few things in my house will take a disproportionately long time to complete the job. If I resist giving charity, I may find myself swindled by an acquaintance who convinces me to invest in a scam. If I judge others harshly, I may find myself castigated by a friend who misinterprets an action I took.
Of course, this does not mean these people are unaccountable for their behavior. No one can excuse his or her negative actions by saying it's ultimately for someone else's character development. But at the same time, we can still search for a deeper meaning in the way others act towards us. While we still need to respond to inappropriate behavior from others, our internal anger can be tempered by an awareness of the bigger picture. As Rabbi Tzvi Freeman writes in his book Bringing Heaven Down To Earth:
"Know that all that befalls you comes from a single Source…. And although this person who insulted you, or hurt you, or damaged your property–he is granted free choice and is culpable for his decision to do wrong—(T)hat is HIS problem. That it had to happen to YOU—that is between you and the One Above."
4. I Examine My Motives When Disagreeing With Another And Am Willing To Receive Guidance To Gain A More Objective Perspective.
Sometimes when there is a disagreement about money, one or both of the parties will declare, "It's not about the money. It's about the principle of the matter." But a neutral person viewing the dispute may think otherwise. The reality is that when our interests are at stake, our mind will consciously or unconsciously seek out arguments that support what we really want.
For example, I want you to invest in my business venture, so your reservations about the economy seem overstated. I am upset about an argument with a friend, so your comments about his positive characteristics are dismissed. I hate to get up early, so my co-worker who suggests an 8:00 a.m. meeting is met with my reasons why it would be better to meet at 11:00 a.m. instead.
The Torah declares that a judge is prohibited from taking a bribe. Fair enough, but what if one takes the money with the intent of judging the case simply on its merits? The bribe is still forbidden because its affect can be so powerful, it can sway a person's judgment no matter what his or her stated intentions.
So what can two people in an argument do when their own internal "bribes" have been part of their lives for years? At the least, they can seek the opinion of objective outsiders who can see the matter more clearly. Even if the other party doesn't want to, we can seek out such advice on our own and clarify how our personal bias is affecting our judgment. We can also spend a greater amount of time and introspection determining our true motivations.
5. I Will Treat Myself With Respect And Compassion.
Much of the emotional baggage that exacerbates conflict comes not from the other person, but from within ourselves. To become happier and more secure people, we need to become more adept at changing the unhealthy way of communicating. This process begins by treating ourselves with a spirit of respect and compassion.
For example, if we come at an adversary with a barrage of angry and sarcastic remarks, it could be because our own ego is too fragile to accept we might have made a mistake. We may have a relentless inner critic just waiting to say that we are too stupid, naïve, lazy or some other negative thought triggered by the argument. Our defensive response may very well be a way of staving off that internal critic rather than an attack on the other person.
But what if we could replace this critic with a more compassionate voice that reassures us when our vulnerabilities are being exposed? As Dr. Dovid Lieberman, author of Seek Peace And Pursue It: Proven Strategies To Resolve Conflicts In Relationships, has noted:
"Accepting who we are is not the same as approving of our mistakes. When we accept ourselves, we embrace the truth of our imperfection. To see oneself as less than perfect is honest and healthy. Insisting that we are perfect is dishonest and healthy.
"The dual themes of acceptance and approval exist in our relationships as well. We often confuse acceptance and approval, where if we do not approve of another's actions, we cannot accept him. This erroneous thinking not only negates the concept of unconditional love, and results in strained relationships, but also impairs our ability to accept ourselves—faults and all."
6. I Will Treat Others With Respect And Compassion.
By being in touch with our own humanity and being sympathetic to our own vulnerabilities, we are in a position to extend that gift to others, even if we disagree with them on a particular issue. A key component in doing so is discussed in Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
"Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel…
"Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you're dealing with the reality inside another person's head and heart…You're focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul…
"When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.
"The need for psychological air impacts communication in every area of life."
7. I Will Seek To Understand Another's Point Of View Even When I Think It's Wrong.
Sometimes our ego is so consumed with the truth of its position, there is little room to truly appreciate another's perspective. The idea of creating space for such a perspective can be threatening. Perhaps we believe that entertaining such ideas will somehow take away from our argument and strengthen the position of our ideological adversary. Or maybe we're afraid that we ourselves will be "taken in" by a position with which we strongly disagree.
But of course, understanding is different than accepting or agreeing with a point of view. I can believe that the death penalty is immoral, but still articulate why others would feel differently. I can see a business proposal as foolhardy, yet still come to understand why the person suggesting it could support it. Ironically, when the other party sees that he is really being heard, he can then respond in kind.
The result can save each party wasted time and energy trying to convince the other person why he or she is "wrong." As Rabbi Pliskin humorously puts it:
"When you find yourself in a conflict with someone, focus on finding solutions. This is in contrast to thinking and speaking in terms of blaming…The person on the receiving end of this blaming rarely responds: 'You're right. It's all my fault. I'll act better from now on.' 'My negative traits are truly negative. I'll work on refining my character and then the root will be taken care of and we'll get along.' '…I'll switch my entire way of thinking, speaking and acting to the way that you do and then we'll have peace'…Whenever you find yourself in a conflict, ask yourself, 'What can I say or do that might be a solution to the problem?'"
8. I Will Be Sensitive To My State Of Mind And That Of Others Before Discussing A Contentious Issue.
At the end of a heated argument where hurtful words are said, one or both parties may seek to make amends by explaining that they were under stress, deprived of sleep or simply in a bad mood. The recipient of our anger may say they understand, but often the damage done is not so easily repaired. In retrospect, a simple delay in dealing with an issue could have avoided such harm. Except for time-sensitive emergencies, waiting until a time when both parties are in a better emotional state will have a positive impact that supercedes whatever value could be obtained by discussing something in the moment.
Dave and a friend were on a camping trip. At one point Dave began hurrying to prepare dinner. When his friend asked why he was rushing, Dave remarked that it was getting dark and there were things which needed to be taken care of before nightfall. The friend realized that Dave did not know he was still wearing tinted sunglasses and it was making Dave believe it was much darker than it really was.
When we are feeling low, our perspective is often like that of Dave, and our interactions with others will reflect that "darker" misperception of reality. To make matters worse, part of our low mood may create an impatience to "talk things out" or "get to the bottom of things" right away. Resisting that temptation can be the difference between a successful resolution of an issue or a trail or resentment and regret. As Dr. Richard Carlson puts it: "Your own moods can be extremely deceptive. They can, and often do, trick you into believing your life is far worse than it really is…When you're in a good mood, relationships seem to flow and communication is easy. If you are criticized, you take it in stride.
"On the contrary, when you're in a bad mood, life looks unbearably serious and difficult. You have very little perspective. You take things personally and often misinterpret those around you, as you impute malignant motives into their actions…
"The truth is, life is almost NEVER as bad as it seems when you're in a low mood. Rather than staying stuck in a bad temper, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment. Remind yourself, 'Of course I'm feeling defensive (or angry, frustrated, stressed, depressed); I'm in a bad mood. I always feel negative when I'm low.' A low mood is not the time to analyze your life. To do so is emotional suicide. If you have a legitimate problem, it will still be there when your state of mind improves…"
9. I Can Choose To Accept Life On Life's Terms.
Many of our arguments are often the result of our being upset that events are not unfolding the way we would like. Our car breaks down and we yell at the mechanic who promised us the car was fixed. We miss a deadline at work and take out our frustration on our spouse when we get home. A child comes home with a bad report card and we lash into him or her for not doing better.
Dealing with the difficulties of day-to-day life, large and small, cause us to feel various degrees of anger – depending on much of our vision of how things should be has been disturbed. But such an emotional state doesn't solve the problem and often makes it worse by damaging relationships and hurting those we love the most.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski is a doctor who has worked with alcoholics for many years and believes that each of us can exhibit the behavior of an addict in times of stress. While we may never act out by misusing a substance, our anger can seem as addictive as alcohol or drugs when things don't go our way. In that sense, we can benefit from the suggestions in various "12 Step" programs. An oft cited passage from the primary treatise outlining the plan of Alcoholics Anonymous can be quite helpful if we remember it before our emotions take over:
"And acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly as it is supposed to be at this moment.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in G-d's world by mistake…Unless I accept life on life's terms I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."
10. By Acting More Peacefully With Others, I Can Help To Achieve Peace With Israel And The World.
It is easy to feel frustrated when confronted by global problems, including Iran's nuclear program or terrorism. We may support particular political, economic or military options we think can make a difference. But deep down, we realize that our true source of protection is G-d. Practical measures are certainly necessary, but their success or failure ultimately depends on Divine assistance. As Rabbi Yaakov Solomon wrote shortly after the 9/11 attacks:
"In the back of our minds, we probably all reserve some space for the possibility that G-d truly runs the world; not kings, presidents, prime ministers, or terrorists. But the fact is that we are human, and we forget….(T)he time has come to lift our spiritual cataracts. The only way the script is going to change is if we resolve to do something about it…(I)t is only when we stop vilifying our leaders, solely blaming our enemies, and worshipping the media…and begin to seriously look at OURSELVES, that this madness is really going to stop. Nothing else can, or will work. The time has come."
It is not easy to change ways of relating to others and it's an ongoing process of affirming and putting into practice the values stated above. But the rewards are worth it, not only for ourselves, but the Jewish people, as we seek to fulfill our mission in creating a peaceful world for all of humanity.
IF YOU SAY SOMETHING, SEE SOMETHING
(Published April 5, 2013)
No, the above title is not a misprint of the ubiquitous, "If you see something, say something" campaign encouraging citizens to report suspicious packages and behavior to the police. In these ads, often found in public places and synagogues, one sees a photo of a passenger with an unattended package nearby.
The ad requests that should one "see something" like the package, they should "say something" to the authorities.
As prudent and needed as these efforts are, the history of the Jewish people is intertwined with the belief that our relationship with each other and G-d is our ultimate defense against terrorism. So it's all the more important to be conscious of the effect our words can have on another. In this case, if we "say something" critical of someone, we need to be vigilant to "see something" in terms of the impact those words have on the other person and the community as a whole:
- If we "say something" that is sarcastic or pejorative of an acquaintance, can we "see something" in their pained expression?
- If we "say something" negative about a colleague, can we "see something" in the way such gossip spreads and damages his or her reputation?
- If we "say something" in a loud, angry way to someone we love, can we "see something" in the distance and lack of trust which follows?
- If we "say something" humorous about someone's foibles or idiosyncrasies masked in the form of a joke, can we "see something" in the look of embarrassment in his or her face as others laugh at our comment?
On the other hand, our words can offer a form of protection to our community by increasing the sense of unity and concern for one another:
- If we "say something" validating someone's good deed or character, can we "see something" in the way the other smiles and feels better about himself?
- If we "say something" that prevents a quarrel among friends, do we "see something" in the preservation of a longstanding relationship?
- If we "say something" critical to a family member in a gentle and loving way, do we "see something" in the bond which is strengthened?
- If we "say something" from a place of acceptance and awareness of each individual's unique role as part of the Jewish people, do we "see something" in the way bridges are created instead of broken between us?
Perhaps the most important lesson from the public "see something – say something" campaign is that it is designed to prevent a terrorist attack before it happens. In our internal "say something – see something" perspective, the goal is to recognize the power of our words to hurt or heal before they cross our lips.
A story is told of Reb Eliya Lopian who was in a bomb shelter with others during the Israeli War of Independence. Reb Elya heard a few of these people speaking disparagingly of others and he suddenly left the shelter. Some who witnessed his leaving shouted to him to come back and protect himself from the bombs outside.
Reb Elya explained that he felt in even greater danger in the midst of the harmful gossip being spoken inside.
Of course, bomb shelters remain a sad but necessary part of life in Israel.
And in America, it's only prudent in light of 9/11 for people to beware of suspicious packages and people. We live in a dangerous world and need to do whatever we can to protect our citizens. But what is sometimes overlooked is an awareness of the Divine protection we can gain by the way we speak towards each other. If we speak to and about others with respect and dignity today, we can see a more peaceful world tomorrow.
FOUR QUESTIONS TO HEAL THE PAIN
(Published May 5, 2012)
About a month ago, we began the Passover Seder by asking "the four questions," which led to a narrative explaining how the Jewish people were freed from Egypt. We are now in the midst of a forty-nine day process of spiritual growth in which we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah.
Unfortunately, this period of anticipation has also been marked by tragedy. We recall the plague which killed 24,000 of Rabi Akiva's students, a consequence of their lack of respect for one another that hindered their ability to transmit the Torah to the next generation.
We also mourn those Jews who perished during the massacres of the Crusades, which were particularly harsh at this time of year. These events were the result of severely fractured relationships which lead to the destruction of the 2nd Temple and left us vulnerable to such tragedies.
Sadly, unlike our freedom from Egyptian slavery, the bondage of disunity and insensitivity towards each other remains. As we approach Shavuos, perhaps a different set of "four questions" can lead us out of the pain that has imprisoned us for so long:
1) Do I Strive To Feel The Pain of Those With Whom I Disagree?
Sometimes we are so consumed with the validity of our position in a dispute that there is little room to see either the perspective of another or the emotions behind it. Beneath the substance of an issue may lie a frightened coworker fearful of losing a job; a vulnerable spouse projecting childhood fears onto his or her partner, a distraught community activist wondering how her vision for the future is endangered by opponents to her project.
Even in facing broader societal issues, these feelings can be present. Can the secular Jew angry at what he perceives as religious coercion understand the pain of an elderly rabbi who has spent a lifetime working to maintain a tradition he knows is the will of G-d? And can this same rabbi feel the pain of the secular Jew growing up in a totally different social context where it is axiomatic that one should be able to do as he pleases as long as no one is hurt. Do the "hawk" and the "dove" arguing with one another over issues of how to protect Israel see the underlying ideals behind each other's position?
This first question doesn't ask us to change ourselves or the other in regards to the substance of an issue. As Miriam Kosman has written in a recent article for The Jerusalem Post:
"(W)e can't even begin to move towards each other before acknowledging that an 'other' exists—and an 'other' by definition, has a different perspective. Hearing the other doesn't mean we will ever agree with each other. It just means we can begin to fathom the internal integrity of how the other person grasps the world, how his life and worldview are based on his own set of values and insights. It means we do not automatically dismiss and deride but try to discern the grains of truth and consistency that invariably exist, buried though they might be under a wrapping that is unfamiliar to us."
2) Do I Strive to Feel My Own Pain?
Much of the emotional baggage which exacerbates a conflict comes not from the other person, but from within oneself. For example, if we come at someone with a barrage of angry and sarcastic remarks, it could simply be a form of protection from a harsh inner critic threatening to accuse us of being too stupid, naive, lazy, etc. if we "lose" the argument.
What if we could replace this critic with a more compassionate inner voice that was more accepting of our circumstances and limitations?
For example, imagine a single parent called in to meet with her child's teacher concerned about his behavior. Even before the meeting, the parent is already blaming herself for not spending enough time with her child because of her need to work and make ends meet. She chastises herself for not going back to school so she can get a better job. She compares her cluttered home with that of her meticulous neighbor and feels like a failure. With this state of mind, would it be a surprise if the mother lashed out at the teacher, her child, or both? Her sense of self is so depleted from the relentless critical self-talk, she can't bear to feel even worse when hearing the teacher's comments.
But what if this same parent validated herself for all the positive things she was doing to stay afloat under a very trying set of conditions; if she could give herself the same emotional support she would offer a close friend in a similar situation? With a greater sense of self-compassion, would it be unrealistic to think that this parent would now respond to the teacher and her child in a more calm and reasonable manner? Of course, a certain amount of self-evaluation is necessary. But too often this gets out of control and leads us to a place of anxiety and fear, and a greater likelihood that our words will create toxic relationships with others. Ironically, this damage could be more harmful and enduring than the mistake we made in the first place.
3) Can We Make Peace With Our Lack Of Control Over Other People?
It is true that we can legitimately make efforts to convince someone of our perspective. But do we recognize that ultimately the choices someone makes are not in our hands? Many of us believe that G-d is running the world, but find it difficult to accept this as we try every which way to control others so that reality conforms to our wishes.
With this attitude, when our car breaks down we scream at the mechanic who had said it was fixed. We miss a deadline at work and curse the colleague who wasn't able to complete his part of the project on time. We fall behind on our bills and berate our spouse for what seems to be wasteful purchases.
Deep down we know such responses rarely improve the situation and can hurt anyone from a casual acquaintance to those we love the most. But it's hard to control our anger when events do not turn out the way we wanted.
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. has worked with thousands of alcoholics and other addicts. In his commentary on the Haggadah, From Bondage to Freedom, Rabbi Twerski maintains that to some degree we all face the challenges of the addict in some form or another, and can benefit from the advice given to those involved in the 12-Step programs designed to treat such addictions.
In the so-called "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous, an oft-quoted passage speaks of the power of acceptance in dealing with difficult people and events:
"(A)cceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation –some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in G-d's world by mistake…Unless I accept life on life's terms I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."
In light of the above, while we may continue to hope that people or circumstances can change for the better, we can also pray for what Rabbi Binny Freedman has called "the miracle of acceptance."
4) How Badly Do I Want Peaceful Relationships?
Responding to the first three questions in a constructive manner is difficult and can take a fair amount of time and emotional energy. To follow Hillel's dictum to "love peace and pursue peace" is easier said than done and requires a genuine commitment and continuing motivation. As Rabbi Zelig Pliskin notes in his book, Harmony With Others: Formulas, Stories and Insights:
"A question to keep in mind is: If I had an intense love of peace, what would I be willing to say and do?…So before getting involved in a quarrel, ask yourself: Compared to my ultimate purpose in life, how important is this?… Will I regret that I did not quarrel when I look back at my entire life?"
Consider how we might act if we or a loved one was ill with a serious disease. We would scour the Internet for relevant information. We would spare no effort to find the most qualified doctor for treatment. We would pray from the depths of our heart to G-d to grant a healing. All of this would force us to expend significant time, energy, sweat and tears which would flow from our deep desire to have a positive outcome.
Unfortunately, when it comes to peace making, we may spend more time searching for the best smart phone or watching a movie.
If we really value peace, we could read one of the many books and articles on the subject. We could talk to a rabbi, therapist or trusted friend about ways to ameliorate a tense situation. We could seek out our adversary and try to find common ground, or at least reduce the acrimony that is destroying the relationship. We would think and think again of how to express criticism and conflicting viewpoints in a humane and empathetic way. Perhaps most of all, we would pray for the wisdom and strength to actualize our commitment to peace.
One story which answers the above four questions in a beautiful way is found in biography of a humble rabbi who lived in Israel and was a source of comfort to prisoners and countless others in need of his compassion and concern. Rav Aryeh Levin truly embodied the title of the book, A Tzaddik in Our Time.
The author, Simcha Raz, tells of an owner of an ice-cream store with a long line of customers waiting to make a purchase on a hot summer Friday afternoon. However, Shabbat is gradually approaching and Rav Levin feels an obligation to preserve its sanctity. Of course, he could have ignored the issue by disassociating himself from Jews who didn't share his beliefs. Or he could have delivered a stern lecture to the owner chastising him if he kept the store open.
Instead, the rav sat down inside the ice cream store and kept silent. He tried to identify with the difficult challenge the owner faced. When the owner eventually came to the him and inquired why he was sitting there in Shabbos garb so close to sunset, Rav Levin simply said, "You are certainly facing a great trial and temptation. Nevertheless, Shabbos is Shabbos."
The owner did shut down his store before Shabbos and later told Rav Levin, "I realized that you knew and felt just what I was thinking and feeling, and yet you felt pain for the sake of Shabbos. Then I thought in my heart: A Jew like that must not be made to suffer pain."
One can only wonder how free we could be if we were able to respond with such sensitivity to others. If so, our response to this set of four questions could lead us to a promised land of genuine unity amongst the Jewish people.