"[The priest] shall remove his garments," commands the Torah, "and don other garments; and he shall then take the ashes to a pure place, outside of the camp" (Leviticus 6:4). The commentaries explain: since the removal of ash will likely soil his vestments, the Torah recommends that he change his clothing for this particular task. Thus the Torah teaches common courtesy — "it is unseemly to wear the same attire in the kitchen as when pouring wine for a master."1

It Once Happened...

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch often spent hours receiving visitors in private. During this time he would perspire profusely and on occasion even excused himself in the middle of an interview to change his garments. When asked for the reason he explained, "When I receive a visitor I am wearing my own 'garments.' But to understand his comments from his perspective I must remove my garments and don his. At this point I must consider the problem from my own perspective and for that I must don my own garments. Having developed a suitable response I must dress my advice in words suitable to my visitor's ears, and for that I must once again don his garments. Knowing this, are you surprised that I perspire?" Such is the art of listening.

Every counselor is advised to listen to his patient without forming judgment. This means, to virtually crawl into the patient's mind and hear their troubles from their perspective. Many a patient simply requires the compassion and empathy that a listening ear provides.

Silence Is Golden

The next time someone pours his heart out to you, look into his eyes and listen quietly. You may find that your bright solutions are unwanted and even unnecessary. Your compassion can solve problems, your empathy can sooth fears, your silence can calm the raging mind. In the words of our wise sages, "Silence is the greatest quality."