Last week's stretch was: to bring HaShem into the Picture. With Tool #1 we discussed the value of taking our focus off what the other person did to us. Instead we learned to focus on this incident as an opportunity coming directly from HaShem. Somehow what may seem bad in the moment is for our good.
Please have one person share a successful experience using this or any other tool we have learned (so far).
PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR BRINGING
SHALOM INTO OUR WORLD
Tool #4 - KAPPARA--ATONEMENT
Tool #4: Kappara--Atonement
We need to pound these ideas into our head like nails that will not budge!
1. No one can harm me or benefit me unless it is decreed from above.
2. Everything HaShem does is for my good!
Most people become upset when someone does something to them that they perceive as bad. If we would acknowledge instead that the person is merely a messenger from HaShem, then what the person did would not really seem bad at all. Even if the incident doesn’t seem ‘good,’ we will be able to understand and interpret the incident as leading to good. Since we cannot see the whole picture, and we can't understand how HaShem runs the world, we may need to rely on our trust in HaShem that ultimately this temporarily ‘bad’ experience is also for our good. Our faith dictates this will eventually be made clear to us, whether in this World or the Next.
One way we benefit from hurt is when it serves as a kappara—an atonement for our sins. At times we may hear someone say with a sigh of resignation: “Oh well, may it be for a kappara." If we truly understood the benefit of an atonement, we would say this instead with relief, maybe even with joy. We know that this world is not a free for all. There is a system of reward and punishment for our deeds. True punishment is actually saved for the Next World, which is eternal. What we might perceive as punishment in this world actually serves as an atonement for our sins. Pain and suffering in this world reduces our punishment in the World To Come. The ability to atone for our sins through suffering in this world, whether it be mild or extreme, is actually a tremendous kindness from HaShem when viewing the big picture.
It says in Aicha (3:30): “Let one offer his cheek to he who smites him. Let him be filled with disgrace." Sefer Kol Bochim explains this to mean: A person should be so happy when he is disgraced by others, as if he just ate his fill and is satiated. This is because tolerating insults is the best type of atonement. Any sort of trouble or pain that comes to a person serves as a kappara, whether it comes straight from HaShem (as with an illness or an accident, G-d forbid), or through another person. We do not get to choose in what form it comes to us. We can choose our attitude only. We are instructed to recognize that receiving the kappara in the form of an insult or hurt, rather than in the form of an illness or financial difficulty, is a true kindness from HaShem. Only when we identify the current suffering as a kappara can we recognize that it is actually beneficial, resulting in less suffering in the World To Come. With this acknowledgment, we can let go of and divest ourselves of the negative feelings. Instead we can serve HaShem with peace of mind. It is written in the name of the AR”I and the RM”K (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, author of Tomer D'vora) that if people recognized how beneficial insults and hurts were to their soul, they would run out to the street looking for someone to insult them, even begging them to do so! (Of course we wouldn’t really want them to behave in that sinful way, it’s just telling us how we would feel if we would understand the tremendous benefit to our souls of an insult.) Additionally, we should know that this also applies to situations in which we inadvertently cause ourselves embarrassment; then too does our soul derive great benefit!
There is a Chazal in Yuma (23:a) that states: "Those who are insulted but do not insult back, they hear their shame but do not answer back, they do it out of love and are happy with y'surim (travails, suffering)." About them it is written: “Let those who love Him be like the sun that comes out in its full glory." This refers to three levels for us to work towards. The first level is: "Those who are insulted and don’t insult back." If our goal is peace, we should not stoop to the other person’s level and answer them back with an insult. The Sefer HaChinuch writes that we are not expected to be like inanimate rocks, having no feelings at all. We are permitted to defend ourselves or let the person know that his remarks were hurtful. However, there is an even higher level to strive for and that is: “They hear their shame and do not answer back." This means not only does the person make sure not to insult back, they do not answer back at all—even though they are pained by the remarks. In such a case, the person remains silent recognizing that any reaction expressed would only add fuel to the fire, intensifying the other person’s anger and leading to more harsh insults. With the third and the highest level of response: "The person remains silent, not because they don’t want to antagonize the angry person further, but rather with strong faith and trust in HaShem." When we recognize He controls everything that happens to us, we accept the hurt as a kappara sent out of love for us, ultimately to reduce our suffering later.
Story: (based on a true story)
It had been a long hard and stressful day at work for Rivka. Before heading for home, she went to do her grocery shopping. By the time she was on her way home it was late. She knew there wouldn't be anyone at home to help her shlep in the groceries and put everything away, she'd have to do it herself. As she turned the corner of her block, she noticed that the street in front of and near her house was lined with cars on both sides. It was then that she remembered that her neighbor had mentioned something about hosting a sheva brachos that evening. As Rivka was passing her house a woman was parking her car in front of Rivka's house. Rivka rolled down the window and with much frustration she exclaimed, "That's my house and I can't even park there!" The woman looked surprised, and after telling Rivka her name, apologized, and offered to move her car. Rivka, on her part, felt embarrassed and childish. She turned down the offer, knowing that to get back in front of her house she would have to go all the way around the block and by that time someone else could have parked there. She parked her car in the closest spot which was halfay down the block. She had to make a few trips back and forth from her car to the house and with every step she felt a mixture of anger (it shouldn't be this way!), frustration and embarrassment (what must that woman think of me!). The next day she spoke to a mentor and asked her what thoughts would have prevented her from being so upset and subsequently making a fool of herself. The mentor replied, "Whenever you find yourself in an upsetting situation, the first step is to bring HaShem in the picture. Everything that happens to us is orchestrated by HaShem. The next step is to recognize the gift that HaShem sent! With every extra step that you have to take, HaShem is sending you an opportunity to atone for your sins! Though you may be tired, hungry and don't relish the idea of making several trips halfway down the block shlepping your groceries, when you consider the outcome, having sins atoned for, each step should fill you with gratitude to Hashem. Kapparos can be sent in many different forms, how happy you need to be that they came in this form where the inconvenience or pain is temporary. Rivka so appreciated being given an alternate way of looking at frustrating situations and was hoping that she could apply it the next time they were sent. She was also so grateful that the woman she had snapped at had given her name. She looked up her number, gave her a call, and apologized. They had a lovely conversation and now Rivka didn't have to feel embarrassed if she ever ran into her.
Discussion Question Options:
What tools have we now learned to help lighten the load of suffering from what another does to us?
In what situations could you imagine saying something is a kappara and saying it with a positive rather than negative attitude? Why?
Describe how we could use this tool even when we embarrass ourselves.
Stretch of the Week:
Find reasons to praise HaShem for his mercy and kindness—in situations that brings suffering or embarrassment.