{Yitro & what I learned from paying attention in class }

I have been attending shul/synagogue on a shabbat/sabbath morning since I was a young kid. One of the key parts of the service is the weekly Torah Readings. Moses established the custom to publicly read from the Torah every Shabbat—although the entire Torah was not necessarily completed in a yearly cycle.*

*(The custom to complete the weekly public reading of the Torah every year finds its roots in Babylon of the Talmudic Era. The Torah was then divided into fifty-four sections to allow for the completion of a yearly cycle with the reading of one section/parsha per week.)

If we take into account my age, and the actual number of years that I have realistically been paying attention, it is probably something like 35 years. That’s 35 years of reading the same stories in a yearly cycle. And yet, without fail, every single year I learn something new.

A few weeks ago we read the section/parsha called ‘Yitro’ (Jethro, father in law to Moses). There were so many lessons there that I have never noticed before. (there’s an amazing booklet prepared every week for when your mind starts wandering, where you can read about these ideas. I loved the ideas so much that week, they were so relevant to my personal and business life, that I took it home with me so I could write this post.)

For example, I had never noticed how Yitro invented outsourcing. He saw his son in law drowning in paperwork and clients and he (basically) said “Dude, you cannot possibly micro-manage everything. You don’t have enough hours in the day or enough energy to control it all. You need to delegate & outsource, and trust that the people you appoint will do a good job. You can’t do it all alone.”

I also had never understood how Yitro, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian, was the first person to show genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of others, a concept known in modern hebrew as ‘Firgun’ (thank you Gina Junger for this brilliant nugget). There’s no satisfactory word for it in english, but Gina describes it as:

“a generosity of spirit, empathic joy that something good has happened to another person.. ‘Lefargen’ means to make someone feel good without any ulterior motives”

What an amazing feeling it is when you can genuinely be happy for someone else’s accomplishments or good news without a hint of envy or resentment.

But what I loved the most that week, the greatest take-away for me was this concept from Elliot Cohen, who asked not to be part of any of my blog posts, but how can I pretend that I came to these conclusions alone?….

When the People of Israel received the 10 commandments, even though they all stood together to receive & to hear,

“Each person heard what was in his power to hear”.

What does this mean? It means each person has their own private revalation; each participated in the best way the could, with whatever senses were most heightened for them , in the way that they knew best.

Elliot’s message is this: people experience things in different ways. We have different perspectives, different filters and lenses through which we view the world. We pick up on different cues, notice details (or not) and nuances in the way people speak and relate to us. And we each have our frame of reference, based on our nature and experiences throughout our years of being on this planet that have shaped us into the people we are today. Is one person right and the other wrong? Absolutely not.

I was on a Skype call with a friend last week and I suddenly heard what sounded like an air raid siren in the background. I immediately froze and my nervous system went into panic mode & told me to run to the bomb shelter. Because, living in the Middle East, when you suddenly hear a siren like that, it means a rocket is making a bee-line for you pretty soon and you’d better scarper.

She, on the other hand, lives in America, and this siren was so insignificant to her that she didn’t even hear it until she saw my face drop and I asked what on earth was going on. It sparked an interesting conversation afterwards about perception and how both of our responses were ‘right’ and fitting to who we are/where we are/what our experiences have been.

Often I will tell a story of something I experienced and certain friends will say “oh yes but you are particularly sensitive…” Does that mean that because I am sensitive to social cues/reading between the lines/the way people act & speak, that my perspective is ‘wrong’?

For example, If I am talking to person A and person B walks into the room, cuts me off mid-sentence, stands directly in front of me, and strikes up a conversation with person A, that I am wrong in my perception? Would someone else with ‘thicker skin’ have brushed it off and moved on to find someone else – very possibly, and more power to them for being able to do that. Am I ‘wrong’ about how that social interaction made me feel? Absolutely not.

Don’t apologise for who you are and how you feel; don’t try to build a thicker skin to be like other people; if you don’t possess one, there’s a reason why you weren’t given one. Make peace with it. Accept it. Learn to work with the unique ‘skin’ that you have been given and use it to your advantage and to understand yourself. We are all so different; we weren’t created with a cookie cutter.

“The world exists as you perceive it.
 It is not what you see, it is how you see it.
 It is not what you hear, but how you hear it. 
It is not what you feel, but how you feel it”-
Rumi

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