Dealing with external circumstances
We all find ourselves in situations that we may not feel comfortable. For example: financial hardships, relationship issues or raising children issues. What are our reactions to these issues?
We all have choices in how we react. Some choices help us and some choices hinder us. We need to understand our reactions, acknowledge them and decide if we want to change them. Let us focus on common negative reactions and then focus on positive reactions.
What is physical pain? When a person has an inflammation, infection usually occurs.
Infection and inflammation causes a physical blockage and does not allow blood to flow. Our body constantly needs oxygen to flow to different organs of our body in order to work properly. When the blood gets stopped because of inflammation, the body sends a signal of pain to say that the body cannot function properly because there is not enough healthy blood flow. Pain is a physical blockage.
Emotional pain is a self-imposed blockage we put on ourselves. We say “This is too much! I can’t handle this. Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I be like everyone else?” Emotional pain focuses on how hard something can be. If we are in pain, we have blocked ourselves. We are in a trap! We can’t move forward.
Why do I feel pain? I feel pain when I take my exterior circumstances and bring it into my interior. When I feel inadequate or embarrassed because of my circumstances whatever they may be. We all have different circumstances, lack of money, lack of being like everyone else, not being able to be a balabaste, making fancy food, or keeping a constantly clean home.
What is fear? What will be? How are we going to manage? True fear paralyzes us. Overwhelming is a self-imposed blockage that limits our ability to perform.
What is anger? Anger means that there is “I”,”ME” “Why did he do this? It is so embarrassing to ME? Doesn’t he know? Know I gave him rules. He is breaking MY rules. Why did he say this? He is not looking at MY perspective at all.
We say in Tefilas Baruch Sheomer “hashem Gozer Umekayaim”. Hashem decreed this circumstance and He felt it was the right thing to exist. Hashem made it happen as a nisayon to see if we will grow from it. Everything in the world is created to uplift us and that we should grow from it.
There is an interesting story told by Rabbi Noach Weinberg in his book, What the Angel Taught You. There was a young man who possessed an unusually happy disposition. People asked him what the secret of his intense happiness was. He says that he got the gift when he was 11 years old.
He was riding his bike. He fell off his bike and a truck ran over him tragically severing one of his legs. He was thinking that he will have to live his whole life without one of his legs. He became very depressed. He realized being depressed is not going to make his leg come back. He made a decision that he needs to change his attitude. He did not want to live his whole life in despair and self-pity.
At the hospital, his parents were in pain. They grieved. What is going to be with him? The poor child! This is terrible!
He said to his parents, “You are going to have to get used to this. You are going to have to adapt to a whole new way of life”.
The boy said, “I am already used to it.”
Basically, the boy accepted the situation. The boy continued and said, “Ever since then, I realize life is full of trivialities and not worth getting upset. The bus came late. So what? I got a bad grade. So what? Someone insulted me. So what? I just focus on enjoying that I am alive.”
Don’t focus on what you don’t have. It wastes energy and doesn’t produce or change anything. The key to happiness is to take pleasure in the things that you do have.
I heard a great Dvar Torah from a friend of mine, Mrs. Rachel Malkin. In Parshas Shelach, we have the Miraglim. They have a difficult situation. The fruits are growing huge all around them. Where ever they go, people are dying. There are funerals all the time everywhere.
They have a choice. How should they react?
Choice A: They can say, “The land grows produce that is too huge for consumption! The land will eat us alive! Everybody is going to funerals! There is NO WAY we can survive.” They put fear in themselves and fear that influenced the people.
Choice B: They can say:
“OH” Look how beautiful. The land produces the most beautiful, luscious fruit I have ever seen. Hashem takes care of Eretz Yisroel with such special care. People have more time to spend doing Mitzvos and learning Torah. They need to spend less time mowing their lawns and pulling out the weeds.
“OH”, Look how Hashem is taking care of us. Hashem is making the people die so that they should be busy and not notice the spies in the town. It is a natural camouflage and protection for the spies.
Circumstances are placed around us. Circumstances are exterior to me. They are not I. We have a choice.
Choice A: MAKE IT INTERIOR. Take it all in and feel resentful, feel aggravated, feel frustrated, and immobilize ourselves so we cannot move forward.
Choice B: REALIZE THAT IT IS A NISAYON. Rebetzin Esther Jungereis used to say “Nisayon is from the word Lisnosays, this means to elevate ourselves like a flag that flies in the sky.
Rabbi Fishel Schachter speaking on Parshas Balak said that there are three things created on eruv Shabbos. Just as we are getting ready to go into Shabbbos, the Yetzer Hara comes to test us. Hashem created the mouth of the well of Miriam, the mouth of the land that swallowed Korach, and the mouth of the donkey who spoke back to Bilam.
The mouth of the well of Miriam teaches us that even when there are impossible things going around us, do not give up. Maybe, the water that you are drinking is from the well of Miriam.
The mouth of the land that swallowed up Korach teaches us the wicked people can be punished swiftly whenever it is the will of the Creator.
The mouth of the donkey teaches us an important lesson. Bilam was travelling to curse the Jews. Bilam was the greatest prophet of the time. With his wisdom, he could see all over the world. The donkey stops and pushes the foot of Bilam against the wall. Bilam hits his donkey. This happens 3 times. Then finally, his donkey opens his mouth and says, “Why are you hitting me? Don’t you see the angel with a sword that is blocking me?”
Bilam is so angry at his donkey. He feels how dare my donkey embarrass me in front of all these important people!
The donkey is a vehicle, a messenger from Hashem. Hashem created the donkey. Hashem allowed it to speak, to give Bilam a message. Hashem gives us messages all the time. Hashem gives us circumstances and says wake up and listen.
Don’t get angry at the circumstance or the messenger, It’s all from Hashem.
On Kol Haloshen, Chana Toby Freedman, speaks on Connections, she wrote a few books. One of them is Daughter of Dignity.
A person is a Neshama. A Neshama is a part of Hashem. I am created just as Hashem wants me to be. Who am I? I am not my job title, a doctor, nurse, teacher or secretary. I am not my talents, the ability to sing, dance or to draw. I am in this world just because Hashem made me. Hashem loves me as I was created. I am created to be a holy Neshama.
Our Neshamos only wants to connect to the Ribono Shel Olam. All of us are special. We constantly strive to overcome our weaknesses inside of us and to focus on serving Hashem.
When I realize I am a holy Neshama, I make a cocoon around myself. I look from afar at the circumstances as exterior and pick a proper reaction to them.
What is a proper reaction?
1. To do as much Hishtadlus as is humanely possible without going to extremes.
2. Daven to Hashem to help it change.
3. Realize other people are human just like me. I have weaknesses and am not perfect. I make mistakes. They also have weaknesses.
The other person is not perfect either. Be willing to forgive.
Maybe he has a different perspective than me. It’s hard for him to
understand about my life if he wasn’t there. Or maybe he really is wrong. He made a mistake. I give him permission to make mistakes and not be perfect all the time.
A proper Tefilah is to daven that Hashem should change the thing that can be changed and to help me accept the thing that can not be changed.
I daven to you Hashem to see the silver lining of every black cloud, to accept the circumstances and to notice the special Hashgacha Prutus in every event.
We can learn the special power of Tefilah. One of the Malachim, Chizkiyahu Hamelech was only 39 years old when he was on his death bed. He had never married because he saw in Ruach Hakodesh, that he would have Menashe as a son who would cause the Yidden to do many Aveiroos.
He was about to die. The Navi Yeshayahu came to him and said, I have a Navuha for you. You will die now, you will lose Olam Hazeh and you will not have Olam Habah either.
He asked why do I deserve such a great punishment? The Navi said Hashem gave a Mitzva to have children. You did not listen to his Mitzva and you never got married. Chizkiyahu Hamelech said to the Navi that I did this in order not to make a Chillul Hashem. I did not want to have a child that would cause other people to sin.
The Navi said the mistake is that you wanted to have control, but you did not listen to Hashem. Hashem had a decree and wanted this special child to be born even though he would be a Rasha and would make Bnei Yisroel sin. Don’t make your own Cheshbonos, just listen to what Hashem says.
Chizkiyahu Hamelech said “let me do Teshuva. Give me your daughter and I will marry her”.
The Navi said that it’s too late. It’s already a Nevuah. It has to come true now.
Chizkiyahu Hamelech said “go away but don’t publicize the Nevuah. Keep it to yourself”. If the Nevuah becomes public, it’s much harder to break the Gezeira.
As the Navi left, Chizkiyahu Hamelech turned to the wall and started davening to Hashem to heal him and he wanted to do Teshuva.
He ended up becoming healed. He married Yishayahu Hanvi’s daughter. Together they bore their son, Menashe the Rasha.
We learn from this story, the Meforshim bring down. “Afilu Cherev Chudah Moneches Al Tzavuri Shel Adam, Al Yimneh Atzmi Min Harachamim” Even if a sharp sword is placed upon the neck of a person, do not stop asking Hashem to help you. In any circumstance, if we daven to Hashem, Hashem can change things around and save us.
My teacher from Yavne seminary, Rebetzin Miriam Barkin tells a story of a boss who tells his worker every day, do you see this big pile of rocks?
Every day pick up one rock and move it to the other side.
The boss leaves. He returns later and sees the worker crying. He asks him why are you crying? The worker says “I can’t do it. It’s too overwhelming. I can’t bring the entire pile of rocks to the other side.
The boss says everyday just pick up one rock. It is not so hard to pick up one rock. Don’t do the whole pile at once, not even in one week. Do just one rock per day.
When we feel overwhelmed, we need to break up the task, simplify it and start doing one thing at a time. If we are persistent with a little bit at a time, we eventually make lots of progress.
There is a big segula to have a difficult circumstance change. That is to thank Hashem for that thing. There are many stories in which a person thanked Hashem for the situation and then it went it away.
There was a person whose husband had a stroke. In the hospital, the wife thanked Hashem for all the years he was well and for being a good father for so many years. She spent much time on this. The next day, the doctors said that he was all healed.
We say every day ahavas olam/rabah before shema Yisroel, to internalize the true love Hashem has for us. We can realize that Hashem gave us every situation only for our best.
Moshe Rabeinu was called ‘unav mkol adam’ He was also called ‘eved hashem’. What was so special about Moshe Rabeinu? Moshe Rabeinu had many difficult circumstances in his life. He ran away from Paroah. Korach, Doson and Averam rebelled against him.
We say in Shabbos davening ‘Yismach Moshe B’matnas Chelko Ki Eved Ne’eman Karaso Lo’, Moshe Rabeinu was happy and accepted his situation because he was a faithful servant of Hashem. Moshe Rabeinu realized that everything that happened and everyone he encountered was a message from Hashem. Moshe Rabeinu could be happy despite his many tzaros.
To summarize, we say – every circumstance comes from Hashem, ‘Hashem gozer umkayem’. It is our choice in how to deal with it.
We can either have a negative reaction that makes us fixed in our mindset. We are what we are, we cannot change, or we can have a positive reaction that helps us grow and change.
We can learn from the boy in the accident that life is full of trivialities and we do not need to get upset.
We can learn from the Meraglim to view a situation, “Boruch Hashem, this is from Hashem”.
We can learn from the pi habe’er, impossible things can be done. Don’t give up!
We can learn from the pi ha’ason, donkeys are messengers from Hashem. Don’t get angry at the messengers.
We can learn that we are a holy Neshama, a part of Hashem.
We can learn that we all are human. We all make mistakes. We can forgive someone for making a mistake.
We can learn from Chizkiyahu Hamelech the power of tefillah, even when things look impossible to improve.
We can learn from a pile of rocks to break down tasks so they shouldn’t be overwhelming.
We can thank Hashem to save us from circumstances.
We can remember Tefilas Ahava Rabah that Hashem has great love for us, Hashem knows what is good for us.
We can accept situations like Moshe Rabeinu.
Written by: Mrs. P.C. Birnhack