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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘anger’

‘Move De Line’: Shalom Bayit; Shalom Aleinu

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

In parshah Ki Tetzei, Moses teaches us, almost as an afterthought, “Do not hate an Edomite because he is your brother.” This teaching is understandable. After all, even an estranged brother who has wronged me is still my brother. But then, in a leap hard to grasp for many of us, the Torah goes on to teach, “Do not hate an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land” (23:8).

What? How can we help but hate those who enslaved us? Whose king demanded that “every male Israelite born be thrown into the Nile”? There must be a deeper meaning to these words. How can we be expected to develop good relations with such a mortal enemy? Which do we do? Do we recall our suffering in Egypt (l’maan tizkor et yom tzetcha m’eretz Mitzrayim) or do we “not hate an Egyptian”?

When I studied at Yeshiva University, hundreds of us would rush to the cafeteria after morning seder to quickly get our lunches so we could make it to our afternoon shiur on time. As you can imagine, the line could grow very long. There, standing behind the counter, dishing out daily helpings of whatever was on the menu was a gentle Holocaust survivor, Mr. Weber. To this day, so many years later, I can still hear his voice prompting us along: “Move de line, move de line.”

Over the many years of my life, his constant refrain has become integral to my personal philosophy. To me, he was not simply asking us not to slow down the line; he was telling us not to get stuck in a tough spot and, by extension, not to remain mired in the bitterness of the inevitable challenges and disappointments we all face – not to bear grudges for the rest of our lives.

We all have to “move de line.”

That means letting go of the negatives that hold us back – the things that enslave us, that humiliate us, that degrade us. Ironically, until we can let go of those things, we will remain enslaved, even long after our captors have set us free. We need to “move de line” if we are to forge new paths and realize new goals.

Hurt begets hurt. Anger begets anger. Hate begets hate. If you want to move de line, you have to let go of hurt and anger. If your “captor” allows you to go free, the least you can do is grant yourself the same grace. As long as you continue to be enslaved by negativity, you can know no freedom; you cannot embark on a new beginning. You are stuck.

As Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks eloquently teaches, “To be free, you have to let go of hate. That is what Moses is saying. If they continued to hate their erstwhile enemies, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but he would not have taken Egypt out of the Israelites. Mentally, they would still be there, slaves to the past. They would still be in chains, not of metal but of the mind – and chains of the mind are the most constricting of all.”

But what of all the mitzvot centered on Yetziat Mitzrayim – including those recalled on Shabbat, when laying tefillin, putting on our tzitzit or reciting the ancient truths at our Seders? In fact, there is no hate, no rage, no call for revenge or retaliation – not even a shred of negativity – in any of these mitzvot. Instead, they focus on the positive: Remember. Learn. Grow.

Move de line.

Rav Soloveitchik views the Egyptian exile and suffering as the “…experience which molded the moral quality of the Jewish people for all time.” Rather than embitter us, our experience in Egypt and subsequent emancipation teaches us not to hate and retaliate but rather “…ethical sensitivity, what it truly means to be a Jew. It sought to transform the Jew into a rachaman, one possessing a heightened form of ethical sensitivity and responsiveness.”

The most practical method of teaching compassion, sensitivity and concern for others, the most direct way of imparting a sense of mitgefiel, is to recall one’s own experience of tzarah. It should come as no surprise that it is often he who has suffered sickness who best understands the discomfort of the ill; he who has sustained loss who can best comfort the bereaved, and he who knew wealth and success but who suffered reversals who can best identify with a colleague or neighbor who confronts similar obstacles.

Brokenhearted Mother: ‘Time to Stop the Meanness’

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

My recent columns on compassion touched many hearts. I’ve received numerous letters in response. I feel it’s important to share the following one with readers:

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

If I could, I would have every school principal and teacher, every father and mother, read your columns, especially those on the true meaning of rachamim. The challenge you posed – How much chesed do our children see in their homes and in their schools? – should make every one of us stop and think.

I am of European background. My parents were survivors of the concentration camps. I was born in a displaced persons camp after the war. When we came to the Unites States I experienced a culture shock for which I was totally unprepared. My parents enrolled me in a Jewish school. I thought surely that in such an environment everyone would be friendly and kind, but my disillusionment came quickly.

I was a foreigner. My English was difficult to understand and many of the girls were warned by their parents not to get too involved with me for fear I might tell them nightmarish stories of the Holocaust. Thanks to my strong and loving family I did not fall apart and eventually integrated and became part of the school.

Never would I have imagined that when my own daughter would start school she too would be tormented and rejected by her peers. And yet that is exactly what happened. The girls in my daughter’s class were very “clicky” and “catty.” They called her a nerd and other uncomplimentary names. She was always left out of social events. Seldom was she asked by her classmates to participate in Shabbos afternoon get-togethers. She would sit home and when she looked out the window and saw her classmates passing by on their way to a get-together, her hurt was beyond words.

I went to the school to speak to her teachers and pleaded with them to do something. They listened politely but there was no help forthcoming. The girls were never put in their place. They were never told this was not the Torah way and that such conduct was a heinous sin.

Soon my daughter developed behavioral problems. Very often she would “act out.” I guess that was her way of trying to get attention. Whenever something went wrong the finger was always pointed at her. She became even more depressed, angry and rebellious. Not once but many times I went to the principal. I begged for help but instead of helping her they labeled her a “troubled child.”

My husband and I were called to the school and told we had to take our daughter for intensive therapy. Having no option, we complied – but it was all futile. She was deeply scarred. Her heart was shattered. She felt disconnected, abandoned and alone. She gave up on life. Again and again I asked, “What is the point of telling a child who was hurting, who needed some love, some guidance, to go out and stand in the hallway or to sit in the principal’s office?”

I wondered why a teacher couldn’t talk to her after class. Even a little smile would have given her hope but she saw and heard only anger, rejection and admonishment.

To be honest, I never had any illusions. Nowadays most teachers just do not make this effort. It is so much easier to send a student out of class and label her a “troublemaker.”

My daughter started to cut classes. She hung out on the streets and of course found the worse element to associate with. One day the principal of the school asked that my husband and I come to see him. With trepidation in our hearts we went to his office and were told we had to find our daughter a new school.

I don’t know how many of your readers have experienced the agony of searching for a school that would agree to take their child – a child whose references shouted “problems” and “disturbed.” It seemed that every door was shut to us. Finally we did find a place out of town, far away. It was a school for “troubled” girls. We hesitated. We feared that under the influence of her peers who were also “troubled” she would deteriorate further. But having no options and despite her objections, we sent her.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/time-to-stop-the-meanness-letter-from-a-brokenhearted-mother/2013/01/23/

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