Is it really possible for any self-respecting New Yorker to love parking tickets? I have seen those orange rectangular pieces of paper become the nemesis of society. As a result, those trying to earn a meager living giving out these tickets have become Public Enemy Number One. We view them as “out to get us,” deliberately attempting to make our lives miserable. I have often seen people wearing frowns for hours because of the audacity of the meter maid – or the city at large – to cause them this needless expense and for not respecting their freedom to park their car. I have witnessed people yelling at the top of their lungs, to no avail, at a blue-clad individual who is writing a summons, when it is obvious that their hysteria will not only not prevent the ticket from being written, but is probably not good for their mood or blood pressure (not to mention the unjustified Chillul Hashem they are causing). So how is it possible that these perceived menaces of society could actually be appreciated?
Chazal tell us that patience is one of the best ways to regulate our middos, and help us gain the proper perspective on life. The tefillah of the patient person is accepted—perhaps, as a result of his patience towards others, Hashem is “patient” with him and gives merit to his prayers. Not only are his prayers accepted, but he also gets forgiven for his sins. The Gemara relates that when you forgive others, even when they are not deserving of your forgiveness, then Hashem forgives you even though you may not be worthy of His forgiveness. And as we can all use the gracious forgiveness of the Almighty, it is worth finding a way to give others a pass for their indiscretions.
Additionally, one who remains silent when he is attacked gives existence to the world; by remaining silent, he is reducing the interpersonal conflict and conflagration that can destroy the world at large – and the peace of our individual worlds. YES, it is very hard to stay in control when we are attacked, but if we make the effort to restrain ourselves, we are given siyatta d’Shmaya (Divine assistance). Furthermore, refraining from responding – even when it may be allowed and justified – allows us to access the greatest heavenly blessings of forgiveness and goodness. The reward is immense for an act that is difficult, yet takes only a few seconds to accomplish.
The Gemara relates (Rosh Hashanah 17) that Rav Huna was very sick, to the point that the other Sages thought he would die, and requested that his shrouds and coffin be prepared. In the end, however, his life was spared. Rav Huna explained that he was granted life because he did not stand on ceremony and defend his honor. He showed patience and respect for others; in return, he was granted a miraculous recovery. Is it not worth a long life to keep it quiet at difficult moments?
There is a well-known story of a couple that had been childless for 20 years and went to a Gadol for a bracha. The rav told them that they should seek a blessing from someone who does not respond to insult; such a person is clean of sin and eligible for miraculous life—in this case, in the form of a child for the childless couple. At a wedding the following week, the couple observed as someone remained silent as insults were being heaped upon him. As per the rav’s suggestion, they requested a blessing from this righteous person. Within the year, the blessing was fulfilled; after two decades, they were finally parents.
The enormous restraint and patience on the part of the man who was being insulted resulted in the fulfillment of a blessing, of miraculous life. The magnitude of exhibiting self-control in the face of humiliation has rewards beyond comprehension.
Traditional advice to the newlywed is to refrain from going to sleep while in a state of anger at one’s spouse. When you go to sleep while the marriage is not in balance, it demonstrates a lack of regard for harmony, for how could you sleep in such a state? Additionally, by allowing the anger to remain and simmer, it becomes internalized; you become an angry person. At the beginnings of a dispute it may be simpler to retreat and prevent conflict. As time goes on, however, each party may ruminate about the incident until they are each able to view it in a way whereby each one believes that he/she is 100% correct. A moment of patient forgiveness, a moment of “letting things slide,” is the building block of both harmony and personal strength. The Gemara (Megillah 28) relates that Rav Zeira was asked why he merited a long life. He responded that he was not makpid in his house – he was forgiving and did not stand on ceremony with his loved ones. Thus, anger management and self-control have direct effects on our physical and spiritual planes of existence.
To the obvious question – how can one remain calm while under verbal attack… or while receiving a parking ticket? In the moment of strife, one should strive to understand or see the perspective of the other. In addition, every challenge in life is an opportunity for growth if we can only see it that way and react accordingly.
Back to the parking ticket—how can we reframe a monetary nuisance as an opportunity for growth?
Lesson #1: If the meter expired and you get a ticket–whose fault is it? It is probably yours for not putting enough quarters in the meter. It is easy to blame the person who issued the ticket; had you been more careful, however, you would not have received it. Try to understand the perspective of the person issuing the ticket. He or she is doing a job and needs to earn a living, too!
Lesson #2: Pay more attention to the details. If you had set an alarm before the meter expired or spent more time looking carefully and reading the cryptic signs, chances are that you would not have received a ticket. Accept this as an expensive lesson in paying more attention.
Lesson #3: Losing money is an opportunity to assess how you spend your money; to determine whether this is what Hashem wants you to do with it. Perhaps the parking ticket is a signal that you did not give enough money to tzeddakah. The merit of charity lasts for eternity; money wasted is a reminder of the power of meaningful spending.
Lesson #4: Just as you willingly get on the elliptical or lift weights as part of your efforts to build muscle strength or tone your body, your response to the parking ticket provides you with an opportunity to build middos strength by controlling your anger and exercising patience.
Lesson #5: Hashem showers you with so much blessing, why are you focusing on the parking ticket? In the scheme of all the good that Hashem bestows upon you, most importantly life itself, why is the focus on the blip of the orange parking ticket?
Next time you get a parking ticket, remind yourself of these important life lessons. Remember, by controlling your anger and living a life of patience towards others, you will access spiritual blessings of a value beyond the cost of any parking ticket.
A little orange message that can teach so much!
About the Author: Rabbi Gil Frieman is the pulpit Rabbi of Jewish Center Nachlat Zion, the home of Ohr Naava. He is certified as a shochet, sofer, and has given lectures in the United States, Canada, and throughout Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Frieman is currently the American Director of seminaries Darchei Binah, Afikei Torah, and Chochmas Lev in Eretz Yisroel, and teaches in Nefesh High School, Camp Tubby during the summers, and lectures weekly at Ohr Naava. In addition, Rabbi Frieman teaches all tracks in Ateres Naava Seminary. He is a highly anticipated speaker on TorahAnytime.com where he speaks live most Wednesday nights at 9:00pm EST.
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