Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vayeitzei 75 - Collaborative Problem Solving CPS and Non-Violent Communication NVC

At an opportune moment while Lavan and his sons were out shearing their flocks, Ya'akov=Jacob   being very much aware of Lavan and his family's resentment to his success, escapes Lavan's attention and leaves without saying goodbye.  After 3 days Lavan hears about Ya'akov unannounced departure and pursues him. When they meet Lavan acts like the aggrieved father and accuses Ya'akov of deception, trickery and embarrassing him by fleeing with his daughters like ' prisoners of the sword' and also taking his gods. Ya'akov answers that he was afraid that Lavan would steal his daughters. After cursing anybody who stole the gods, Ya'akov invited Lavan to do a search.  When Lavan turns up nothing, Ya'akov feeling angry about the search confronts Lavan. The sages of the Medrash praise Jacob's words, preferring the' kapda'nut = taking to task and rebuke' of Jacob to the words of humility of David. Instead of attacking Lavan and using aggressive language Jacob   tries to appease Lavan and just defend and justify himself.  He asks – 'what is my transgression, what is my sin that you pursue me'. Lavan in fact wanted to kill Ya'akov, but he uses understatement and non-violent communication. He says - what is my sin that you ' pursue me and does not say    'kill me'. David in his humility asks Jonathan- what I have done, what is my sin before your father that he seeks my life. David talks about 'bloodshed' in his attempt at appeasing and being conciliatory.

Although Ya'akov is praised for not openly attacking Lavan and  using  instead  NVC  - Non –violent  communication, the Alter from Slabodka, Rabbi Finkel  brings to our attention that the Torah introduces Ya'akov's with the language of argument and confrontation and the sages call it 'kapda'nut ' = taking to task and confrontation . Aggressive and confrontational language may be hidden or concealed but it is implied. When a person is accused of doing something wrong and then in an apologetic way defends himself, he implies that he is the ' righteous ' man and the other person is lacking. A better response would be as the Talmud – Shabbat 88b says that a person should be  one who is disgraced and insulted and yet remains silent and does not respond with insults. But it is not enough to remain silent. Even if one is an innocent party with no interest in a having an argument or conflict one has to make every effort to try and make peace with the other party.  We learn this from Moses who asked Da'tan and Aviram - leaders of a group who joined Korach's rebellion against Moses - to come and speak to him to try and reconcile differences and make peace. They refused to come and said that Moses and Aaron were unfit for the leadership role, in fact a disaster bringing the Israelites from a land of milk and honey to die in the desert.  Moses disregarded his own honor and dignity and went over to the rebels to try and end the quarrel and make peace. If Moses wouldn't have gone over to the rebels , he would have violated a negative commandment of being like Korach and his assembly. The Talmud Sanhedrin 110a learns from Moses that one who does not make an effort to make peace is called somebody who supports and contributes to a quarrel and violates the negative commandment of being like Korach and his assembly.

If Ya'akov was on a higher level, of a greater stature he could have directly dealt with Lavan's concerns and returned to the land of Canaan with his consent. Ya'akov's stature is being judged, not his actions. But still after they met, Ya'akov could have acknowledged Lavan's sentiments and explained in a more neutral and non-judgmental way that in his humble opinion the way he left was the best for all parties concerned under the circumstances. He could address Lavan's concerns for contact with his daughters and grandchildren by saying that he has an open invitation to come and visit them whenever he wants to visit. However, we can see the positive in Ya'akov's ' kapda'nut ' – confrontational stance, as it did get Lavan to think of the safety of his descendants   and ask for a peace treaty to be  made between them. Most of our interactions don't require confrontation, but the pursuit of peace.

Instead of quarrels, argument, criticism and conflict parents and teachers can focus on being less judgmental about their own and others' actions as being for eg. Manipulative, wrong, bad, inappropriate or even good and focus instead on the concerns, feelings, and needs. Being attentive to the needs of others and understanding their concerns will help to solve problems in a mutually satisfying way and promote trusting relationships. Non- violent communication NVC or compassionate communication helps us avoid ' doing to' or even hurtful words and create a ' working with ' relationship. When we first try to understand the concerns of others , the concerns of our kids and students before presenting our expectations and concerns , kids will feel understood , that we care about them and meeting their needs and will more likely be  open to taking our perspective, hearing our concerns and being empathic. Kids then start to think how their actions impact on others and how they can make a contribution and not just what's in it for me. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but people being interdependent caring human beings.

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