Making a Breakthrough
Question: After reading your column of last week about the Chafetz Chaim's approach to dealing with Jews who resist efforts to persuade them to become observant, I was wondering as to whether you have some tips on making a breakthrough with someone who is not even ready to listen to you at all. What are the right things to do?
Answer: Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, the rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, once encountered this problem when speaking to a paratrooper in the Israel army. When nothing seemed to arouse his attention the rabbi declared, 'I envy you!"
Taken by surprise at hearing such words from a rabbi, the paratrooper asked for an explanation. "Did you ever hear of Rabbi Yonah of Gerunda?" began the rabbi. The answer was negative but indicated an increase in curiosity.
"He was one of the greatest ethicists of our people. In his writings he points out that when our Talmudic Sages state that death is an atonement for sins, the fear of death achieves the same objective. I see that you are wearing the emblem of the paratroopers which means that you have experienced the fear of death before every jump and have achieved atonement, which I envy."
This compliment achieved the desired breakthrough and a similar strategy may be what you need to achieve yours.