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Cheshvan 14

Three types of people live an unlivable life: those who are overly compassionate, overly irritable, or overly sensitive (Pesachim 113b).

Why is being overly sensitive so unlivable? If we sustain a severe sunburn, we avoid contact with other people, because what would normally be a friendly pat on the back or a gentle caress can cause exquisite pain.

Our emotions can become as overly sensitive as our skin, and things which would otherwise be neutral, if not pleasant, may be very painful. To avoid being hurt, we may withdraw from human contact or set up other barriers to communication.

The ego is the source for this touchiness. When people's egos become inflated, they feel superior to others and imagine that they deserve more recognition. No amount of recognition is sufficient, however, and other people's innocent comments or actions are misinterpreted as insults or slights.

Unlike sunburnt skin, ego-burnt emotions are not easily recognized. This lack of awareness may then cause these poor people to think that others intend to harm them. Such misinterpretations will make their lives unlivable.

Today I shall...

try to avoid reacting reflexively to painful experiences, and try to understand that my discomfort may be due to my sensitivity rather than to others' behavior.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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