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Critical Reflection

August 15, 2017

 “Love is giving someone the power to destroy you…but trusting them not to” – Paulo Coelho[1]

When we fight, if we hold on to our dignity and honour, even if we lose we will never be defeated, because our soul is intact.” – Paulo Coelho

Torah Parsha (Portion) Re’eh in a Nutshell

“See,” says Moses to the people of Israel, “I place before you today a blessing and a curse”—the blessing that will come when they fulfil G‑d’s commandments, and the curse if they abandon them. These should be proclaimed on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal when the people cross over into the Holy Land. 

A Temple should be established in “the place that G‑d will choose to make dwell His name there,” where the people should bring their sacrifices to Him; it is forbidden to make offerings to G‑d in any other place. It is permitted to slaughter animals elsewhere, not as a sacrifice but to eat their meat; the blood (which in the Temple is poured upon the altar), however, may not be eaten. 

A false prophet, or one who entices others to worship idols, should be put to death; an idolatrous city must be destroyed. The identifying signs for kosher animals and fish, and the list of non-kosher birds (first given in Leviticus 11), are repeated. 

A tenth of all produce is to be eaten in Jerusalem, or else exchanged for money with which food is purchased and eaten there. In certain years this tithe is given to the poor instead. Firstborn cattle and sheep are to be offered in the Temple, and their meat is eaten by the kohanim (priests). 

The mitzvah of charity obligates a Jew to aid a needy fellow with a gift or loan. On the Sabbatical year (occurring every seventh year), all loans are to be forgiven. All indentured servants are to be set free after six years of service. 

Our Parshah concludes with the laws of the three pilgrimage festivals—Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot—when all should go to “see and be seen” before G‑d in the Holy Temple.

“Eight years after the breakup of Oasis – Which was definitely not his fault – Liam Gallagher is finally ready to take on the role of solo artist” – Hamish MacBain (Saturday Good Weekend[2])

How often has a boss, a spouse, a friend, a colleague, a mentor, a stranger and even your child been critical of what you have done, said or written? None of us like being criticised, being told what to do or accepting responsibility when involved in a dispute. Look, on rare occasions, people may have an alternative reason to criticize, but most times people are pointing out an error, trying to help us or to break bad habits. Most people may view what we are doing differently and constructively want to help.

Change brings with it renewed sense of vigour and motivation” – Psychologist Sasha Lynn[3]

A few weeks back I did a Blog. There was something that I had written that I knew may offend, but decided to include. The person called me and we discussed what I had written, and I made a change. She was in no ways upset with me, but I did want comment and feedback. Only through feedback will I be able to improve my blog, improve my demeanour or behaviour or grow as a person. I often read the Modern Guru in The Age, Dr Joanna McMillan’s “My Day on a Plate” column or other question forums and wonder if people take notice of the advice or criticism that they are given??? 

I’m relieved the main point of contention between you and your wife is flushing the toilet – Jessica Rowe (Dear Jess – Sunday Life Magazine[4])

In an insight, I read on a Gemara[5] (Sanhedrin 19a) from the Daf Yomi. The Gemara expounds and teaches: “Adorn yourself (strive to perfect your own character) before you look to adorn others.” When someone is being criticized, he should not reverse the focus and question the one delivering the words of rebuke, but he should rather consider the worthiness of the words themselves and whether they are justified or of value. If there is truth to the matter, he should hearken to their call and should accept them. Maybe it is people nature to respond defensively by questioning or arguing…OR it may be that the person rebuking is not doing it in a nice way. I have learnt that often it is the tone or way that you rebuke can make a difference.

There may be times that you are criticised for in effect a good character trait, that possibly you push the boundaries with, like being a perfectionist and people tell you to “relax”. “The more people that tell you this, though, the more frustrated you get.” – Megan Blandford[6]. Are they wrong???

In a brilliant Dvar Torah from Rabbi Dr Tzvi Hersh Weinreb[7] on this week's Torah Parsha Re’eh titled “How’m I Doing?” – We read at length about false prophets. The false prophet not only gives false guarantees about the future, complacently predicting peace and tranquillity but assures the people that they are doing nothing wrong, that they need not change their behaviour. The false prophet gives no feedback. “For feedback to truly be effective, it needs to be solicited. That is, the recipient of the feedback must ask the observer to tell him how he is doing. This signals a readiness to receive criticism, to modify one’s behaviour, and to change. Without that readiness, feedback is (or maybe) doomed to failure.

Feedback or criticism also needs to be specific….

Human nature is such that it is the rare person who asks for feedback, and that few of us are comfortable in delivering criticism. However constructive and well-intended, it is hard to give feedback to another person. We are afraid of confrontation, of possibly embarrassing the other, and so we avoid giving feedback even at the cost of assisting the other to change in a positive way.

And yet, there is nothing more helpful to anyone learning a new task than to have feedback delivered to him or her in a useful, nonjudgmental, constructive manner. As the Talmud puts it, “No one has ever mastered Torah study without having first erred and made mistakes.” Mastery is only achieved when mistakes are pointed out to the student so that he can correct them.”

There are times when you do need to stand up for your values and go into battle for what you believe will benefit everyone. It amazes me how some of these sports stars and team managers, like Arsene Wenger (I am a very loyal Arsenal Fan), take all this criticism but stick to their guns, keep their jobs and continue to manage the teams on THEIR terms. It makes you wonder that if maybe they would change, listen or even step away from a position, would things at the club change? (or do they take the advice from the Modern Guru (Danny Katz)[8] – “Never. Defy the haters. Stay Bold and push hard…”) I noticed a nice quote from radio personality and comic, Jo Stanley[9] in the Sunday Age that shares a similar message “So for the good of my daughter, I'm going to get more selfish. I'm going to stand my ground, fight for my way, sometimes just for the sake of winning. I'm certain she'll end up with better life skills, better relationships – and, we can only hope, better musical taste.”

I must say that sometimes there are people who just want to fight and criticise without a reason. This week filling up with petrol, I had a guy hooting and screaming at me because I did not go to the front petrol pump. I explained that I could not use 91 Petrol and the front pump did not have 98 Petrol and could not move forward, but he just continued shouting and pointing. I just thought WHY??? The only thing you learn is how not to criticise and to try to keep your cool.

People may criticise us for being inconsistent with our values. In a Podcast with Greg Steltenpohl[10] on the MBG Podcast[11]. Jason Wachob asked Greg for one lesson that I think is a very good way to avoid being criticised “Practice what you preach.

In a brilliant Podcast/ YouTube[12] by Rabbi Sacks titled “Lessons in Leadership – Responses for the Harvard Business School's Executive Education Programme”, he answers leadership related questions. In one of the questions – How did you discover your strengths and passions? He explains that only through critique, both in a positive and negative way was he able to get an understanding of his strengths and passions. “Failures… maybe… nudges to say you in the wrong territory” – Rabbi Sacks

Instead of concluding, I will end with a few good quotes…

I have to add this quote from Cain Sellers who commented on my blog. I think it sums it up "Praise has value, criticism is unmeasurable, without it we cannot move forward, repair, correct and evolve :)"

Who do you spend time with? Criticizers or encourages? Surround yourself with those who believe in you. Your life is too important for anything less.” – Steve Goodier[13]

 “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill






[5] The Gemara (also transliterated Gemora, Gemarah, or, less commonly, Gemorra; from Hebrew גמרא‎, from the Aramaic verb gamar, study) is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah.





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