In the spirit of my New Year's Resolutions to broaden and deepen my own intellect, I attended a Torah Study yesterday by Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. We read from this week's Parscha (portion) the familiar story of The Ten Plagues which G-d caused in Egypt when the evil Pharoah stiffened his heart. The sixth Plague was darkness.

The commentary about why "darkness" was considered a plague equal to blood, boil, locusts, hail was interesting. The Rabbi's concluded it was because "darkness" would not allow people to see one another's humanity. As I always do, I had to consider how this relates to my work and my role in other people's conflict. My conclusion is that mediator's are trained optimists.

We look for the light in the dark canvas of other people's lives. Maybe we are born this way and it's what draws us into this field. Consider the "re-framing" technique: are we not attempting to find the light in an otherwise bleak situation. Particularly in my work in employment mediation, I find myself constantly looking for the opportunity that the lost job, and oftentimes the lump sum settlement creates: can they now put away money to put their children through college, take a long awaited vacation, return to their local community college to re-train and pursue something they have long wanted to learn how to do? Thank you, Rabbi Leder, for leading me to this journey of introspection and helping me make sense of Torah in the context of mediation!

Jan Frankel Schau. Problem Solver. Mediator. Author. Ally. Jan Frankel Schau, Esq. settles litigated cases arising out of employment, business and tort disputes and has mediated over 1,000 litigated cases throughout Southern California. Jan has been a Panel Neutral at ADR Services in Los Angeles since 2007 and is widely considered one of L.A.’s preeminent mediators. Jan is also a popular trainer, author and lecturer on topical issues related to Alternative Dispute Resolution, including her book, “View from the Middle of the Road: A Mediator’s Perspective on Life, Conflict and Human Interaction. Please visit: