Yesterday, I encountered a spirit from my past.
Some of you may remember Abe Polonsky. A kind, gentle, and caring man, Abe was also strong. Of body and nerves. He was, for many years, the physical education director at the JCC, where he ran the Eager Beavers Ski Club and for which he courageously schlepped busloads of rambunctious kids up to Loveland every Sunday. As if that act of heroism weren’t enough, he also acted as a de facto camp counselor during the summers.
I learned to ski thanks to Abe. I learned to fish and camp. But I also learned to listen because Abe was, among many talents, a great listener. He was full of adventure, but with a gentle hand on the shoulder and a soft, still presence, he could wrangle the wildest of us on the slopes and lift a homesick camper’s mood.
My friend Rabbi Raphael Leban, who leads the Jewish Experience, is another great listener and, yesterday, he called to invite me to join him for a day at Loveland. He had been listening during our recent talks and had heard that what I needed was a beautiful and blustery day on the mountain, even though the topic of skiing never came up.
On the ride up, over Floyd Hill and past Idaho Springs, Rabbi Leban reminded me of a word from Talmud, dachak. It means to press or to squeeze and is often used to describe the style with which someone is making a point or conducting an argument. It occurred to me on one of our runs that day, in the newly fallen powder, that pressing doesn’t work, whether on skis or in relationships.
And yet that’s what Moshe does in recent Torah portions. He presses. He pushes. He insists. But in this week’s reading, Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro meets with Moshe. And Yitro listens. He hears his son-in-law, and as a result, he is able to offer him both guidance and a means to ease Moshe’s burden.
Yitro listened. Rabbi Leban listened. Abe listened. May we all listen to those around us and, even more, may we all hear each other.