Monday, November 2, 2009

What we do does matter--an illustration!

As a follow up to my previous post "What we do does matter" I wanted to share with you this wonderful story that I received from R. Baruch Lederman of S. Diego:

"As we read in the beginning of the Torah, Ha-Shem created Adam. Adam went and generated an entire world. Noach saved the world. Avraham came and gave purpose to the world. The individual has amazing power as the following story illustrates:

A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in High School by telling them the difference each of them had made. She called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First, she told each of them how they had made a difference to her, and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon, imprinted with gold letters, which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."

Afterwards, the teacher decided to do a class project, to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a Community. She gave each of the students three more blue ribbons, and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom, and
report to the class in about a week. One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby Company, and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon, and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition, and we'd like for you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person, to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened."

Later that day, the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down, and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon, and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss's jacket, above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon on, he said, "Would you take this extra ribbon, and pass it on by honoring somebody else. The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school, and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people."

That night, the boss came home to his 14-year-old son, and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office, and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me, and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine! He thinks I am a creative genius!
Then he put a blue ribbon that says, "Who I Am Makes a Difference", on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor.

As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon, and I thought about you. I want to honor you. My days are hectic and when I come home, I do not pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school, and for your bedroom being a mess.
Somehow, tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to
me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid, and I love you!"

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he could not stop crying His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "Dad, earlier tonight I sat in my room and wrote a letter to you and Mom, explaining why I took my life, and I asked you to forgive me. I was going to commit suicide tonight after you were asleep. I just did not think that you cared at all. The letter is upstairs. I don't think I need it after all."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anger Management

Last week, in a Jewish online discussion group I happened to see a course offered in anger management. That this is an ever-growing problem in our community I find both sad and ironic. The essence of Judaism is to find the sweetness and G-dliness in the chance occurances and events of our lives.

As such I think that it would be informative to share with you what the Rambam says about anger: (Hilchos Deyos 2:3) "...Anger is such a detrimental character trait, that one should distance oneself from it to an extreme, and train oneself to not get angry even over something that one would be justified in getting upset about. And even in a case where one is in a position of authority (such as in the case of a boss, a parent, a teacher or a community leader), and wants to instill awe or fear upon those under him in order to instruct them how to behave, he should appear as if he really is angry, pretending to be so, and yet inside, remain calm and composed. Our sages tell us that those who get angry are considered like idol worshippers, and one who gets angry, if he is a scholar, he will lose his wisdom, and if he is a prophet, he will lose his prophecy. To angry people, their life is no life! Therefore our sages commanded us to distance ourselves from anger to such a degree that one trains oneself not to be affected by words that would usually provoke one to anger. For the way of the righteous is to be insulted and not insult, to hear themselves being embarrassed and not answer...."

As the verse says in Mishlei (Proverbs): "Know Him in all of your ways...." One who gets angry, in essence, denies that Ha-Shem is part of his life, for if everything comes from Him, and if He is the ultimate good, is it not shortsighted and childish to react to that which befalls us with anger? The fact that anger is so pervasive in our community is no less pathological than is overeating and obesity, as both reflect a lack of connectedness with Ha-Shem, and act as anesthetics for our perception of pain. Perhaps initially, in both cases, we can take therapeutic steps to resolve these imbalances (anger management and diet therapy), but I would suggest that far more important would be to address the pathogeneses, the root of these disharmonies, and remedially teach those who are afflicted with these illnesses how to better involve Him in their lives, searching within and refining our ability to perceive the constant blessings that we are showered with.