Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Say it Out Loud
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, March 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 3:1
AKABIAH B. MAHALALEEL SAID: APPLY THY MIND TO THREE THINGS AND THOU WILT NOT COME INTO THE POWER OF SIN: KNOW WHENCE THOU CAMEST, AND WHITHER THOU ART GOING, AND BEFORE WHOM THOU ART DESTINED TO GIVE AN ACCOUNT AND RECKONING. WHENCE CAMEST THOU? — FROM A FETID DROP. WHITHER ART THOU GOING? — TO A PLACE OF DUST, OF WORM AND OF MAGGOT. BEFORE WHOM ART THOU DESTINED TO GIVE AN ACCOUNT AND RECKONING? — BEFORE THE KING OF THE KINGS OF KINGS, THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE.
It is difficult to keep our heads up in trying times. This Mishna, unfortunately, identifies how we all feel sometimes. There are times when we all feel unworthy. There are times when we all feel as though we have no direction and we have no control and life seems utterly futile.
Strangely enough saying it – knowing others feel the same gives us comfort. So say it. Share your fear, your concern, your anxiety- and know you are in good company. Whether it is the words of Akabiah B. Mahahlaleel or the famous words of Thomas A Harris MD, in one of the best selling self-help books ever published, I’m OK, You’re OK.
Anger Only Hurts Yourself
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, March 1, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Rabbi Yehoshua taught: The begrudging eye, the evil impulse, and hatred of one’s fellow human
being will ruin a person’s life. (Mishna Avot 2:16)
The literal translation of the final phrase of this Mishna, motzi’im et ha’adam min ha’olam, will ruin a person’s life, is “takes a person out of this world.” It is the literal translation that I appreciate. We can become angry, jealous people. We can become discontented and the Mishna says that steals us away from being truly alive. We grow to live in our heads and not in the world.
There are so many obstacles to living our life to its fullest. This Mishna offers a few examples. I often wonder why I respond to certain circumstances better than I do to others. I, like all other people, have triggers. If I can identify those triggers I find I can respond better. I know that when I am tired, my patience runs thin. I know that when I am hungry my temper flairs faster. And although I cannot always get enough sleep or even enough to eat I must realize that is no excuse for poor behavior. And if that is true for physical deprivation, than it must also be true for emotional paucity. Recognizing this, is part of the solution. The problem isthat as we grow so do our triggers and we lose track of our true selves.
Rabbi Yehoshua explains there is much that confuses us and robs us of our joy. There are impulses that distract us from being the people we want to be; that divert us from living the life we want to live. Anger and jealousy are natural responses to certain interactions. But we must fight against those responses, rather,choosing to open our hearts and remain connected to our world and our true selves.
The Pain Remains and So Do The Choices
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, February 21, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
HE [R. JOHANAN] SAID UNTO THEM: GO FORTH AND OBSERVE WHICH IS THE GOOD WAY UNTO WHICH A MAN SHOULD CLEAVE? R. ELIEZER SAID, A GOOD EYE; R. JOSHUA SAID, A GOOD ASSOCIATE; R.JOSE SAID,A GOOD NEIGHBOUR; R. SIMEON SAID, ONE WHO LOOKS [AHEAD TO SEE] WHAT [CONSEQUENCES] SHALL BE BROUGHT FORTH [BY HIS OWN ACTIONS]…
HE [FURTHER] SAID UNTO THEM: GO FORTH AND OBSERVE WHICH IS THE EVIL WAY FROM WHICH A MAN SHOULD REMOVE HIMSELF FAR? R. ELIEZER SAID, AN EVIL EYE; R. JOSHUA SAID, AN EVIL ASSOCIATE…
I can’t get my mind off of Parkland Florida. As much as I would like a simple answer and an easy place for blame there isn’t. The mere fact that this happens so often with such increased devastation leaves my mouth gaping and my heart searching. No quick comparisons, no rapid solutions exist. Rather we must take a full accounting of the ills that beset our society. The rise in fear, the increased anger, the growing brokenness, the lack of real human connection are the results of something.
The Mishna challenges us to make good choices, to make conscious decisions about the life we want to lead. There is so much over which we have no control. Still, we must never abandon our capacity to affect our future and the future of those around us. Our Mishna today asks us to be thoughtful about who is part of our life and who is not. Who is being lost and who can be found. It asks us to see the world with realistic expectations while we are ever dutiful to a hopeful future.