Sunday, April 22, 2012

A lesson in dealing with cynics

Apropos of our discussion here about cynicism and lack of trust in rabbis, and the difference between past and present, here's something I came across in Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:) on Friday-

אין דור שאין בו ליצני' מה היו פריצי הדור עושין היו הולכי' אצל חלונותיו של דוד ואו' לו דוד אימת יבנה בית המקדש אימתי בית ה' נלך
There is no generation without scorners. What would the lawless of [King David's] generation do? They would go to David's windows and say, "David, when will the Beit haMikdash be built? When will we go to the house of Gd?"

This was a jibe with bite; King David longed to build the Beit haMikdash, and was told that he could not.[See Shemuel II 7, Melachim I 5, Divrei haYamim I 7 and 22 for more.]

But I like King David's response:
הו' או' אע"פ שמתכונין להכעיסני יבא עלי שאני שמח בלבי שמחתי באו' לי בית ה' נלך
He would respond, "Even though they intend to anger me, may I be rewarded for I am happy in my heart." [As Tehillim 122:1 says,] 'I am glad when they say to me, 'Let us go to the house of Gd.'

People mocked King David for various things - his lineage, his relationship with Batsheva, and, apparently, the Divine decree that he not construct the Beit haMikdash. But he took it in stride. A good lesson, I think, for today's leadership.


  1. My experience with rabbis is stonewalling, or outright suppression of criticism. That is like slapping a Band-aid on gangrene. The wearer may be fooled, but everybody else can still smell the corruption.

  2. I'm not sure why you have had such bad experiences, Adam. My mileage has varied.

  3. When there was an apparent discrepancy with the mishkan metals inventory, Moshe Rabbeinu didn't complain how Bnei Yisrael are cynics in suspecting great rabbis of wrongdoing. He bent over backwards to make sure there was no cause for suspicion rather than lamenting that bnei yisrael are cynics.

    1. Moshe certainly is a good example for leaders, although I wouldn't use your case. In that case his concern seems to have been for genuine misconduct. I would use his treatment of Miriam after her suspicion, and his approach to Dasan and Aviram at Korach's rebellion.

      On the other hand, we have his response to cynics in the request for water, and in Behaaloscha. So the picture is significantly more complex.