How sensitive are you to the feelings of those people closest to you? Do you know what's really going on in their minds and hearts? Have you ever asked them?
Our generation is one of the most affluent in history. Our children's generation even more so. The question is: Are we more sensitive to others as a result? Or less so.
I ask this question for the following reason. This past Tuesday I travelled to the Ukraine with a group of people to visit the resting place of the Baal Shem Tov.
Every time I go I try to penetrate a little deeper into the enigma of this unique legend. How could one human being possibly touch the hearts and transform the lives of so many In his day and in ours.
As I stood there in his synagogue on the exact same spot where the Baal Shem Tov prayed, a single word suddenly entered my mind. The Baal Shem Tov was unique in his ability to be "sensitive" to the pain of others.
Human beings are primarily preoccupied with their own lives. Everyone has their own concerns and pressures and consequently are much less sensitive and aware of other people's feelings. We have dedicated too much bandwidth to our own problems, leaving little space and time for others. We are not available to listen, even to our closest family and friends.
What makes the problem even more challenging is the fact that someone who is insensitive, is not sensitive to his or her insensitivity. He or she is totally unaware of the problem.
The Baal Shem Tov transformed the Jewish world by demonstrating through his personal example and his teachings the degree to which every Jew is capable of being as sensitive to others as we are to ourselves.
As we study his Chassidic teaching and read the stories about his legendary life we begin a fascinating journey into the realms of consciousness that allows us to empathize with others in ways that we have never experienced before.
It is this exercise into sharpening our sensitive abilities that is also the best way to prepare for the New Year ahead. For in essence we are all asking for G-d to be more sensitive to all of us and to listen more carefully to our heartfelt prayers.
And yes, there is only one way we can be sure that G-d will be sensitive towards us. If we will be sensitive towards others; to all family members, to our friends, and especially to strangers.