Â Â Â A LESSON FOR ALL LESSONS
Â the king removed the ring from his hand, and he gave it to Haman, theÂ enemy of the Jews. (Esther 3 10) Our Rabbis teach that this act, the removing of Ahashverosh’s ring, was the catalyst that made the Jews repent. Despite the fact that the threat of annihilation would not be realized for another year, it was so powerful, it exceeded the power of the prophecy of the 48 prophets, who were not able to bring the Jews to repent!Â (Megillah 14a)
Isn’t that simple? Of course, when people are faced by a tragedy, or find themselves up against a brick wall, they will be much more certain to change than they will be just from aÂ warning!
The answer is the lesson of all lessons!
One of the secrets of successful authors is, “Show, don’t tell!” Describe what you see with richly descriptive words, and don’t just give a dry report of a sequence of events. Use color, sensory language, shmear the account with emotion. Paint them a vivid picture of what is in your mind, using words. Don’t just relay an idea. The stronger the picture, the more power the message.
In talking about chinuch, Israelis say,” ×—×™× ×•×š ×œ× ××•×ž×¨×™×. ×—×™× ×•×š ×¢×•×©×™× ” You can’t teach people how much to love G-d, if you don’t live your teaching. I have a good friend who is a great psychologist. And he is pioneering a whole theory, that the therapist can help others to correct their behavior only to the point that the therapist, himself, models that correct behavior. I know this, as a coach. When I find that the person needs coaching in an area that I, myself, need to work on, I need to change, to be a live example, in order to help him change. I believe that this principle is also true in parenting. Stop preaching! Start being! What your kids see in your behavior has a much greater impact on their upbringing than what they hear you preaching.
The Chazon Ish was asked about a kindergarten that was opening up in a new Yishuv, in Israel. The kindergarten was a combination ofÂ both religious and non-religious children. They concluded that there were two areas in which religion was expressed in a kindergarten.Â 1. The choice of a teacherÂ 2. the appearance of the classroom. “If we get a religious kindergarten teacher, the decorations, the pictures on the walls and the tone or atmosphere in the Gan will be anti-religious, secular Zionist. But, if we put pictures of Rabbis on the walls, and decorate the classroom with themes of Jewish holidays and subjects, the teacher will be irreligious.” Ironically, the Hazon Ish ruled that they shouldÂ “Go for the decorations on the walls, for the spirit of the kindergarten. That is what the kids see. That will affect them the most.”
If you would like to get your point across to your children, to your employees, to your spouse or to your students, showing is not on the same plane as preaching.Â You can tell your students from today until tomorrow how much their cell phones fuzz their focus, but until they see a clear example of the damage done, until they feel how much it hurts them,Â they will not change. They do not internalize the lesson.
The Rabbis were teaching a lesson even deeper than this. It is not that the audience is not listening. It is not that smokers do not care when they read the warnings on the cigarette box.Â It is that they do not have strong enough motivation to overcome their negative habits; the lesson is not yet strong enough, or vivid. Change is hard, and not only the person’s intellect is needed to be on board for the change,Â but also his feelings. The magical formula goes like this. SEE – FEEL – CHANGE.
I have a close friend whose life was being ruined by his smoking. His career, his personality. He smoked a pack and a half a day. He knew that if he wanted to keep his job, he needed to quit smoking, but he just could not. Until his sister, in Israel, a doctor, begged him to come visit her at a certain office. He walked in and saw a team of doctors waiting for him; he saw an exhibit, showing the difference between the lungs of the smoker and the non-smoker, the graphs visually representing the harm caused to the delicate tissue in the lungs, etc. He saw what he was doing to himself -Â he felt the pain his addiction was causing him, and he never took another cig…
Our Rabbis teach us, here, that it is not that people do not want to change. People wish they could change, but they need to rev up their ‘motivation engines’ in order to be able to overcome their past habits. They need to get a “jump-start”, the feeling, to get into it.
Car dealerships will not talk to you on the phone about what they have to offer. They know that it is far more persuasive for you to see the car than it is for you to listen to the description of its luxury and features on the phone. Just imagine the difference between learning at home and learning in the Beit Midrash. When you are learning at home, you just “know” how important learning is. But when you are in the BeitMidrash, and you see how the place is vibrating with the voices of people learning, it keeps your adrenalin flowing until the end of the seder.