In late spring and early summer I completed a brief fellowship under the auspices of the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies, called “Mahloket Matters.” The purpose of the fellowship is to teach us how to disagree respectfully and productively. I will be doing some programs based on the material I studied later on this year. On Monday night I did a brief presentation for our Board of some of this material and I want to share with you one specific thing that we studied.
Prof. Jonathan Haidt of NYU, a social psychologist, points out that all of us have two parts of our brain: the conscious, verbal, thinking part and the automatic, emotional, visceral part. Haidt uses the metaphor of the elephant and the rider: when you see a person riding an elephant, it seems like the person is in charge -- but only as long as they manage to convince the elephant to cooperate. If the elephant takes over it goes where it wants regardless of the desires of the rider. When arguments get out of control, it’s often because the elephant has taken over.
I wanted to note that I have switched my weekly day off to Monday instead of Tuesday. As we start to do more programs with other shuls, and as more and more professional seminars and webinars take place, I have found that the vast majority of rabbis take Monday off and scheduling meetings with other rabbis has become complicated. The one exception is that on Mondays when we have a synagogue board meeting, I will work on Monday and take Tuesday instead.
I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building. You do not need an appointment during drop-in hours but if you are coming to the building specifically to see me, it’s to your benefit to make sure I am there and have not been called away for an emergency.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian