Saturday, January 27, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 20 - Be Flexible like a Reed

Rabbi Abraham Twersky

Shema Yisroel

A person should always be flexible like a reed, and not rigid like a cedar (Taanis 20a).
Some people forget that they have the right to be wrong. They may see being wrong as showing weakness. They grossly misunder stand the true concept of strength.
In the physical world, many substances that are very rigid are also fragile. Glass, for instance, is hard but shatters into many splinters, and metals which lack resilience are apt to break under pressure.

Rigidity in people frequently shows ignorance. If people do something without understanding why they are doing it, they are likely to become very defensive when challenged. The reason is obvious: if they do not understand the reason for their actions, they of course do not know if they have any room for compromise. Since they can respond only in an all-or-nothing manner, they perceive any questioning of their principles or practices as a threat or even as a hostile attack. They therefore react defensively.

Willingness to listen to advice, to consider it, and to alter our opinion when the advice appears to be the correct thing to do are signs of strength, not of weakness. Honor means being honest, not being right all the time. As the Talmud says, "You should not say, `You must accept my opinion,' because the others may be right and not you" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:10).

Today I shall ... try to be flexible, to listen to other opinions, and not be obstinate in insisting that I am always right.