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by Lawrence Stroll
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

This week’s issue marks the return of Lawrence Stroll’s popular Between Friends column. In case you forgot, this column tracks the e-mail correspondence between two friends. David is twenty-something,single, and non-observant. Ari is thirty-something, married with kids, and a ba’al teshuvah (returnee to traditional Torah observance). The younger friend is at a time in his life when he is looking for “more” (i.e. seeking spiritual growth and personal development) and generally writes to his older friend in search of advice. The older friend tries to provide useful and solid advice by drawing on the Torah portion of that week.

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BETWEEN FRIENDS By Lawrence Stroll Dear Ari,

How do you do it? Marriage, that is! I’ve just spent the better part of the two hours talking with this gal at work regarding a project that we’re both working on. The only problem is that it should have only been a 15-minute discussion. Somehow, someway, it became this conversational ordeal. Truth is, it wouldn’t bother me that much if she were the only one I’ve had this issue with. It just seems like anytime I need to communicate with someone of the opposite sex, the conversations take longer than they should. It’s like we’re speaking two different languages! Is this normal? Am I the only guy incapable of getting messages across gender barriers?

Sincerely, Being Held Incommunicado

 

Dear David,

Sounds like you’re not having the easiest time communicating with the opposite sex. And while that may be quite frustrating, consider yourself lucky that you’ve made this observation before marriage. The sad reality is that a lot of married couples only come to the realization that they and their spouses communicate differently after much marital grief. Nevertheless, you (or they, for that matter) can save yourself a lot of further aggravation if you focus on one fundamental fact: Men and women are different, and do communicate differently. Incidentally, this idea finds its precedence long before the publication of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." In fact, this week’s Torah portion makes it very clear that "us" and "them" indeed communicate differently.

This week’s Torah portion details the immediate events surrounding the Jewish people’s receiving of the ten commandments. As Moses ascends Mt. Sinai for the first time, Hashem calls to him and tells him what to say to the Jewish people. The exact language, however, is significantly more revealing. Specifically, we are told that Hashem told Moses to "say to the House of Jacob and tell to the Children of Israel" His proposal. If you’re interested in what that proposal was, I would direct you to chapter 19, verse 4, of the book of Exodus. For our purposes, though, let me explain Hashem’s introductory words according to the undisputed preeminent Torah commentary of all time.

Rashi explains that "say[ing] to the House of Jacob" refers to the women and indicates that Moses should speak in a gentle voice, while "tell[ing] to the Children of Israel" refers to explaining to the men using words that are far harsher. Now, before I am accused of any political incorrectness, let me state for the record that these are not my words; they are the words of the Almighty. And who better than our Creator to remind us that women and men should be spoken to differently?

That being said, I would not run out and enroll in any quick-fix communication course promising to grant you the golden gift of gab appropriately geared for each of the genders. What I would do is start becoming more aware of your own communication. That is, you might want to specifically note when your conversations with the opposite sex become strained. At those points, not only should you pay attention to what you may have said, but you should also try to understand why the thing that you said may not have been received as well as you thought you delivered it. Finally, if you still don’t seem to get why your female listeners aren’t getting it, you may want to take a read of "Men are from Mars..." and see specific examples of what the Almighty was trying to teach us.

Sincerely, Your Fellow Martian

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Lawrence Stroll is a financial planner and Family Wealth Counselor with Geller Financial Advisors in Atlanta.

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