Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Anger Only Hurts Yourself

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, 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. Stein

Wednesday, 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.

  

Our Impact on Others

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Avot 2:9

RABBAN JOHANAN B. ZAKKAI HAD FIVE [PRE-EMINENT] DISCIPLES AND THEY WERE THESE: R. ELIEZER B. HYRCANUS, R. JOSHUA B. HANANIAH, R. JOSE, THE PRIEST, R. SIMEON B. NETHANEEL AND R. ELEAZAR B. ‘ARACH.  HE [i.e. R. JOHANAN] USED TO RECOUNT THEIR [FOREMOST] QUALITIES: R. ELIEZER B. HYRCANUS IS A PLASTERED CISTERN WHICH LOSES NOT A DROP; R. JOSHUA B. HANANIAH — HAPPY IS SHE THAT BARE HIM; R. JOSE, THE PRIEST, IS A PIOUS MAN; R. SIMEON B. NETHANEEL IS ONE THAT FEARS SIN, AND R. ELEAZAR B.’ARACH IS LIKE UNTO A SPRING THAT [EVER] GATHERS FORCE.   

When learning occurs community is created.  As time evolves in the classroom or any other learning environment we grow to learn who our colleagues are. We quickly assess who will carry the load on days when others are unprepared and those who will continually fall behind. There will be students who ask the best questions and those who seem to be distracted by a single word or phrase.  However, each student has a role.

This Mishna teaches that in every environment in which we find ourselves we impact others.  We can raise them up or we can bring them down. And that will become our reputation.  There will be the valedictorians and there will be the salutatorians.   We carry those titles our entire lives. In our yearbooks we are named best dressed, most likely to succeed, class clown.  Each name we carry forward, it is how our classmates remember us.   Some of the appellations we wish we could shed, some we carry with pride.  Our Mishna asks us, who do we want to be and how do we want to be remembered?