GOOD MORNING!  One time while I lived in Israel I parked my car in front of Uri's Pizza to pick up two pies for my family. When I came out there was a man leaning against my car -- scowling face, crossed arms, crossed legs. He looks at me with hatred and says with aggression, "So, you're the one!" I asked, "The one what?" He venomously replied, "The one who blocked my car in!"

I looked and sure enough his car had no room to maneuver out of it's parking spot. I put down the pizzas and said to him, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that I blocked you in. In the future I will make sure to be more careful. Please forgive me for your wasted time and for being the cause of your aggravation."

The man approached me with a big smile, gave me a big bear hug and said, "I was born here in Israel. This is my first apology. You can block me in anytime!" True story.

Everyday we run into people who are upset -- and once in a while, that upset person is even us. Every single one of us is righteous in his own mind. We see very clearly from our own point of view why we are right, why the other person is wrong and why the other person deserves our wrath. (Recently, a recipient of the Shabbat Shalom faxed me 23 copies of the fax. I wrote him a nice note asking if there is a problem and how can I help. He faxed me back 23 copies of the note...)

The mind is a very powerful tool. Ask it for 10 reasons why you should rob a bank and it will give you 10 reasons:

  1. You can give lots of charity with it
  2. They're insured
  3. No one will really be hurt, etc. ...

Then ask it for 10 reasons not to rob the bank and it will give it to you:

  1. It's the wrong thing to do
  2. You'll go to jail
  3. It sets a bad example for your kid, etc. ...

What a person needs to do is to ask his brain, "What's the right thing to do?"

It is hard to be rational and even compassionate when one is emotional. What can one do? One technique is "Go to the balcony." Pretend you're watching a play -- from the balcony. You're not involved; you're just observing. You will be able to see your situation more objectively.

Ask yourself, "If I were the other person, how would I react?" Seeing it from the other point of view, helps build rationality and calmness. Talk in a soft voice. A soft voice turns away wrath. Don't say anything which will enflame the person. Don't interrupt the person when he's talking (it shows a lack of respect and is very irritating). Focus on what you can agree with and apologize where you can.

Lastly, know that on some level all human beings are a bit crazy. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. People do not want to "lose it" -- to lose control and become angry. Yet, they do it repeatedly. The advantage of knowing that we are all a bit crazy is three-fold::

  1. we can have more compassion for others
  2. we can have more compassion for ourselves and
  3. knowing were a bit crazy, maybe we can do something about it! (If you aren't aware that there is a problem, you can't and won't do anything about it.)

Changing oneself is a very hard thing to do. People have aspirations of changing the world -- and they should! However, one must start by changing himself. An excellent guide and tool is Begin Again Now -- A Concise Encyclopedia of Strategies for Living by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. It is available from better Jewish bookstores everywhere or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Torah Portion of the Week

The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses and the men and Miriam and the women -- each separately - - sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.

They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey G-d your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt -- the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)

Later the Israelites rebel again over lack of food; G-d provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses instructs them about the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. G-d tells Moses to strike a stone which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

After the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of their enemies, the Children of Israel sang a song of praise to the Almighty. One of the verses is: "This is my G-d and I will glorify Him" (Exodus 15:2). What does it mean to "glorify G-d"?

The Talmudic sage, Abba Shaul commented that it means "Emulate Him. Just as G-d is compassionate and merciful, so too, you should be compassionate and merciful" (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 133b).

We can learn much from the actions of the righteous. At an important Agudas Yisroel convention of Torah leaders, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Rosh Yeshiva of Lublin, was devoting all his time and energy to promoting his idea of instituting the Daf Yomi (the daily study of an entire page of Talmud on an international scale, thereby everyone following the program would finish the entire Talmud in seven years). During one session a poor person asked to speak with him. The ushers at the convention, knowing that Rabbi Shapiro was extremely busy with the momentous project, did not allow the man to approach him.

When Rabbi Shapiro heard about the incident, he was very annoyed and rebuked the ushers, "You should know that as busy and harried as I am, the heart of that poor man beats faster than mine, and he is more troubled than I. You should have let him come over to me. Please don't repeat your error."