Listen - Thursday, August 10

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 12:24pm -- Rabbi Shalom Lewis
Rabbi Shalom Lewis I was in the mood to refresh my wardrobe and so, wandered into a local haberdashery.

I was met at the door by a young clerk who asked how he could assist me. I told him I was looking for new dress slacks. He nodded and pulled out his tape measure. I raised my arms and clearly told him not to tell me the results, but, simply to pull off the rack what would fit. After doing his due diligence on my belly he announced, with total disregard to my instructions of silence, my size for all to hear.

About to sort through the pants he asked, “Pleated or flat front?” I replied “Pleated” and I told him the colors I was looking for. While he did his search, I let him know l’d be waiting in the fitting room. Minutes passed and no salesman with an arm full of slacks. More minutes passed and finally, I opened the door slightly and there he was. To my question of why he didn’t knock on the door he simply shrugged. He then handed me four pairs of flat front pants.

“I told you I wanted only pleated.” Again, a shrug and an about face to the racks. He returned, finally, with what I had asked for but I didn’t like the cut. I thanked him for his time and handed back the ill-fitting slacks. As I turned to leave he asked, “Sir. Anything else I can help you with?” I paused for a moment and said “There is. I’m looking for dressy, silk tops to wear under a sports jacket. Not cotton. Not blends. Not polyester or rayon. Only pure silk.” 

He led me over to a table piled high with garments and showed me cotton tops. Blends. Polyesters and rayons. With growing exasperation, I reminded him I was interested only in silk. Again, he shrugged. “Oh. We don’t carry silk tops.” As I turned to leave, having wasted an hour at the clothier, the salesman said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of any help.”

 I turned and replied. “You’re right. You were of no help to me but let me be of help to you. When you have a customer, listen to what he says.” The best-known verse in the Torah is probably the Shema. It is the quintessential description of Judaism and the affirmation of God’s unity. The verb associated with this elegant text is Shema, listen. It is a one word prescription for life. Those who listen, grow, achieve, flourish. The Midrash teaches that we were given two ears but only one mouth so that we would learn to listen more and speak less. Sage advice for those working on commission and trying to sell pants.





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