Friday, February 20, 2009

Erev Shabbos #11- Conversationalism

Ever noticed what we converse about?
I once heard that old saying-
Small people talk about others
Medium people talk about things
Great people talk about ideas

I never was totally sure about it- as most conversations tend to generalize about all three, but it is true that the more a person talks about others, the worse the conversation tends to be. The Chofetz Chaim was once approached by someone who asked him how it was possible to have a conversation free of Loshon Hara (derogatory speech about others). "I mean, what is there to talk about?!" R' Yisrael Meir Kagan shook his head, and asked, "You mean that you can't find a single thing to talk about except about others? That's very sad."

I've found that conversation, unless you have decided to get into an intellectual debate with someone, usually focuses around what you've been doing lately. For those in school, it's their finals and tests. For those who are married, it's Shabbos preparations, or timing of graduate school classes. For those who are parents, it's their child's latest antics. And so it continues. (These are all examples. Please don't read into them.)

I happen to enjoy the intellectual debate type of conversations, but there are very few people in this world who are interested in conducting one with me. I mean, how many people are interested in debating Nosson Slifkin's view of the universe and the perspective of the Rabbanim involved, or the fact that entropy figures in an excellent Ramban in Bereshis....
And particle physics- well, I can't discuss that with most anyway. Oh well.

So my conversations tend to range along the lines of most of the other stuff. And, people are content by this.

On Shabbos- my table abounds with conversation. In my parents' home, it used to revolve around the parsha. My parents would make it a point to read the entire parsha in English straight from Artscroll on Friday night, whether or not everyone had learnt it already. And when I say read, I mean every word. People were encouraged to chime in with Divrei Torah at appropriate intervals. At my table, conversation can range from all sides of the spectrum. But, discussion of Torah does remain paramount.

I think that's an important idea in conversation. All the week, at the table, we discuss the commonplace things. But on Shabbos- conversation should have some measure of Kedusha, holiness, in it. It doesn't matter if you read straight from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski's Parsha Points, or you interweave your own Devar Torah from the sources you've learnt. It doesn't even have to go with the parsha of the week. But there should be something there.

Something more than straight old conversation for conversations' sake.
Gut Shabbos Everyone!


corner point said...

Hmm...I'd like to have a conversation with you.

How about the function of existentialism in avodas Hashem?

Or the differences in relative perception of the world?

Or on thinking vs. not thinking(and yes, I have discussed this many times and still not tired of it!)?

I love a good debate. Too bad so few people are willing to plumb the depths with me...

oh well

nmf #7 said...

CP- me too! I love your blog, and would love to discuss...
It's funny, existentialism has actually been debated between me and Mr. NMF- the Shabbos before we got engaged- and he brought some great Nefesh HaChaim sources for it.
Relative perception? Well, it's all relative :)
And, thinking can only be discussed with someone who thinks about things, therefore, some people are just not interested.

It is hard to find a good conversation.