Walking down the lengthy corridor of the synagogue entrance way, I heard a young boy's voice behind me:" Great speech, yesterday, rabbi."
I turned and a skull-capped lad of no more than 13 years of age briskly passed by.
"Thank you," I called out after him.
These few words were like a tonic for my soul-bracing and sweet.The day before I stood before a congregation of about 300 souls interspersed among pews that stretched back to the rear of a cavernous sanctuary seating over 2500 individuals.As I spoke i desperately tried to not ony reach their ears and minds but their hearts as well.Feeling frustrated I spoke too long which gave rise to irritated restlessness among some congregants. I felt I had failed.
Following services one tall imposing fellow extended his hand with a perfunctory Sabbath greeting,and proceeded to level a devastating assault at the basic premise of my talk, namely, gratefulness can generate morality.
"From what you said,a child abuser should be grateful for his abuse!"
I was dumbstruck. He quickly added authority to his criticism by referring to himself as a professor of philosophy.We argued, discussed my presentation and I tried to place my words in a context that would negate his misunderstanding.
Needless to say, his words rang in my ears for hours after.
I questioned some other listeners to determine if in fact I had not made myself sufficiently clear.They were equally at a loss to understand the validity of my attacker's comments.
I confess that my skin is rather thin, and perhaps a deep-seated need for approval persists in my psychological make-up.
The following morning however,a few passing words spontaneously expressed by a youngster, restored my feeling of confidence and well-being.I realized again how grateful I was for a few simple words spoken at the right time.
I am not suggesting that we speak gratefully to hide the truth.I do suggest that we somehow attempt to display our gratitude even in our disagreement. Perhaps the harshness and angry tone of my critic was the source of my discomfort and not so much
the content of his criticism.
Our Rabbis say: The words of the wise are heard-understood, when spoken with "nachat," kindness-I would add, with gratefulness.
When speaking to others, be grateful for their words and thoughts- try to add a little gentleness to our environment of social intercourse.
PS What makes me particularly gratified by the youngster's compliments was my belief that he "got it!"