Thursday, November 29, 2012

Good Decision Making Lessons

A colleague made an observation about this week's Torah portion with regards to how to best make decisions - I'd like to share it with you. I'm sure just about all of you have had the conversation that goes something like, "where would you like to eat?" "I don't care, I'm open to whatever you like." And then chaos ensues. What's wrong here? We may think we are being helpful by "being open" to our friend's interests, but are we? Here is where Rabbi Jonathan Bernhard's observation comes in: In the parshah this week, Jacob is very insistent about giving some gifts to his brother Esau, as part of their reunion. Esau however, isn't so interested in them, but Jacob presses him. Now normally, you'd think giving gifts is a good thing, right? And yet here, is Jacob giving Esau gifts because he is a caring and loving brother, giving Esau things he really needs or would like? Or is Jacob's motivation something else? Might he be more concerned about what meeting the brother you deceived twice and who now meets you after twenty years with an army might be planning to do to you? Might you really only be thinking about yourself? The dinner example is the same thing, though more close at hand. If we're with a good friend, spouse or someone we "know" - we may realize that this person sometimes, or frequently, or maybe just today, will be best helped by our actually picking a place. Throwing back on someone, who has maybe had a really tough, stressful day, or someone who is usually indecisive, yet another choice - that may be the worst thing you can do. Being truly attentive to those around us, and how even seemingly small things might impact them, that is a key lesson about decision-making we see in this week's parshah. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Benson

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