“Save Room for Humble Pie”

“Save Room for Humble Pie”

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

In the New York Times, David Leonhardt wrote an op-ed that about the importance of enjoying a “tech-less” Thanksgiving. The point was to preserve the meaning of the holiday without interruptions from phones and tablets that spoil the time to express gratitude for family, prosperity, and shared American hopes. But, when I read “tech-less,” my mind went to the Hebrew word, “tach-les,” which, in Hebrew, means “substance.” “Tachles,” is pronounced with an overt guttural “ch” and a less obvious stress on “les.” A Tachles Thanksgiving suggests that Thanksgiving without our phones might provide us time for substantive conversations and thoughtful expressions of gratitude. Can we do it?

I believe that we can have a Tachles Thanksgiving, because we all have reasons to be grateful. We can also have a Tachles Thanksgiving, because we all have opinions on matters of the day and our future. But, I’m not sure that we remember how to have a tachles conversation without fact-checking everything we say, if that’s important to us. If facts and not fictions are important, then we have to find a way to speak from what we know without reactively reaching for our phones to factcheck what was said. It means that we have to know our stuff, so to speak, and come prepared with information we studied and learned. That’s the way we used to do it before cellphones. We used to prepare for the day, any day, by reading or listening to objective news sources before we entered the world of business and commerce where discourse and exchanges depended on what value we brought to the circle. If we knew nothing or couldn’t verify our information then we were ejected as unreliable. Today, not only can we verify on the spot with internet searches on our phones, but, what’s worse, unreliable information has become someone else’s alternative facts. But, that’s not good enough at most tables and in most circles.

At Thanksgiving tables without phones, we have to find a way to hold conversations in civil ways that allow for questions, debate and understanding. We might have to begin by picking up some Tachles Rules of Order for Thanksgiving:

1. Try saying, “When you say that about X, Y, or Z, it makes me feel like we disagree on shared expectations for our nation. Help me understand your position.”
2. Try asking, “I’m not familiar with that perspective. Where does it come from and how can I learn more about it?”
3. Try responding, “Like you, I’m sharing my point of view. Thank you for hearing me out.”
4. Avoid using words like “never” and “always,” and try to use “sometimes” and “often.”
5. Don’t point across the table and use fewer gestures when you speak.
6. Don’t eye-roll when you disagree and keep a modest smile to show you’re listening.
7. Wait until you’re in the car or all the way home before you bark your disapproval.
8. Send a thank-you note to your host for a delicious and Tachles Thanksgiving.

In these polarized times, let’s work together to make it a Techless and Tachles Thanksgiving. If we can, there might still be room for a piece of cake or even a slice of humble pie. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving.