Posts tagged " communication "

Seeing Eye-to-Eye

June 20th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

Reading your rabbi’s observations about a baby’s behavior is probably going to be as incongruous as overhearing a cannibal enthusing about a veggie burger made of sweet potato, quinoa and black beans with a little creamy lime aioli drizzled on top. (Not sure what lime aioli is?  Me neither.)

Nonetheless, I must tell you of something I recently noticed in an extremely cute little one year-old.  While I was talking to him, his eyes were not on the only moving part of my face, my mouth.  Instead, he gazed into my eyes.  This made no sense to me because in general, babies’ eyes are drawn to movement.  Yet while I was talking to him, he watched my motionless eyes instead of my moving mouth.

I was so puzzled by this that I tested it on a few other pre-talking little toddlers and discovered they all had this disconcerting tendency.  I am obviously accustomed to adults looking into one another’s eyes. But babies?  It would make most sense to me if their eyes were drawn to the mouths of those talking to them. But if they are not going to be looking at the moving mouth, why are they looking at the eyes rather than the conspicuous nose or huge expanse of forehead?

Ancient Jewish wisdom might suggest an explanation.  In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for eye is AYIN while the word for mouth is PEH.  Those two words, AYIN and PEH are also the names of two consecutive letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the sixteenth and seventeenth letters, respectively.

ע     פ


There is no parallel in English since there is no generally accepted way of spelling a letter’s name.  The sixteenth letter, P, is just P rather than PEE (or PEIGH if you attended a prep school). The next letter is just Q and not QUEUE.  But in Hebrew, every letter has a name that is spelled in a specific way and has a meaning.

In the Hebrew alphabet, adjacent letters are spiritually connected. For instance, the first two letters, ALEF and BET spell out the Hebrew word for father. This reveals that fathers lead to the rest of the alphabet, in other words, literacy and communication is (perhaps counterintuitively) at risk if we eliminate fathers from society.

Similarly, AYIN (eye) and PEH (mouth) are linked by their adjacent positions in the alphabet.  What is more, since AYIN precedes PEH, we get the idea that eyes are vital to communication.  This is to say that we are being advised to look before we speak.

Of course, pausing and assessing a situation before speaking is important, but there’s an even more useful message.  We should look at the other person’s eyes even before he or she starts speaking.  Eyes telegraph a hint about the emotional flavor of the message the mouth is about to deliver.  In honest communication, the eyes and mouth deliver the same message.  But if the eyes hint callous ruthlessness and the mouth delivers friendly warmth, or the other way around, our emotional alarm bells start jangling.

This is one of the reasons that  in-person communication has not been obliterated by technology. Even Skype has a fatal flaw in that the two parties don’t look into each other’s eyes.  You see, the little camera lens is off to the side in the bezel surrounding the screen.  Yet, we all gaze at the picture of the person we’re talking to.  That means our Skype or FaceTime friends never see into our eyes and of course neither do we see into theirs.   Whether for business, friendship or romance, talking face-to-face adds a dimension to the relationship because of being able to look into eyes.

It turns out that even from a young age, our babies get this and though their eyes are normally attracted toward movement, in the case of communication, they know that the eyes come first.  They are listening to what your mouth says, but their little eyes are fixated upon your eyes.  It is from your eyes that they will know what you’re really feeling.   I don’t know who first coined the phrase, the eyes are the window into the soul, but it is pretty accurate.

In all interpersonal relations, whether in romance or business, what their mouth says is always important, but first notice what their eyes say.  

I invite you to uncover more practical life insights that spring from the Hebrew language. Letter names not only have meaning, but they also have numerical values, specific shapes and much more. God gifted us with a language that reveals truth. Whether you are fluent in Hebrew or can’t read a word, deliberately unwrapping that gift yields valuables. For a few more days, our best-selling attempt to do just that is on sale. Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language will amaze you and allow you to explore 29 fundamental ideas such as love, money, laughter and family through God’s eyes.

Crime Doesn’t Say

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 32 comments

On news broadcasts and interviews I have noticed something scary.  Boys involved in violent crime are largely illiterate.  This chilling correlation has been confirmed to me by friends in criminal justice and law enforcement.  You’d think that just by the laws of probability, at least some assailants and murderers when caught would have more to say than just meaningless gesticulations and obscenities.  I have been looking for just one carjacker who, upon being apprehended, told the policeman, “It’s challenging to understand, officer, I know, but while taking my afternoon constitutional, I was seized by an irresistible desire to inflict physical harm on an innocent citizen and to transfer his motor vehicle to my possession.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom suggests that the desire to communicate is present from birth and that parents who neglect this most crucial of their responsibilities may be complicit in their children’s later lack of socialization skills.


Resentment in Marriage

April 30th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


I have been reading your book Buried Treaure and one of the things you said was that if either partner in marriage feels like a martyr then its very bad.
Can you explain further why and what that portends?

∼ Maureen


Dear Maureen,

You are referring to the chapter in our book, Buried Treasure, on the Hebrew word, KoRBaN, sacrifice. In that chapter, we say that giving is vital for a marriage, but that the giving is of a joyful, not resentful nature. (Speaking overall – obviously, there are times we need to push ourselves to give when we just want to focus on ourselves. Or when there is only one Godiva chocolate left. At those times, our hearts may not be overflowing with good cheer.)