Last week's tool was: To be silent at the time of an argument. The stretch was: When embarrassed or insulted by someone publically, practice being silent—understanding that the moment presents an opportunity to ask HaShem for a b'racha.
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 #6 - REMEMBER NAPOLEAON
Tool #6: Remember Napoleon
We are beginning to see how beneficial it is to forgive. Sefer Raishis Chochma (Anava, gimmel) gives us an even more compelling reason to let go of hurt. There are times when we are being humiliated by others that require remaining silent so that bad decrees can be torn up—even a decree of death! Knowing that, who would give up such an opportunity and risk fighting with the one insulting him? He should actually feel gratitude towards the person for the tremendous benefit gained as a result. The person may even be saving your life.
Remembering the following story about Napoleon illustrates the point that at times what may appear as an insult may, in fact, be coming to save one's life.
General Napoleon was conquering city after city in Russia. There was one particular city that stubbornly resisted surrender. Napoleon’s soldiers were becoming restless. Winter was approaching and they dreaded the brutal Russian winters. Napoleon's soldiers had been fighting battle after battle and were anxious to return to their families. Napoleon decided to investigate the morale of the city first hand, to determine whether or not to give his soldiers the oppportunity to return to their families. He and an officer would sneak into the city disguised as Russian peasants to assess the situation. If they could determine that people were suffering from hunger, with low morale, Napoleon and his soldiers would conclude victory was close at hand. Then they would stay the course. If instead, morale was high, and their enemy had plenty of provisions to resist surrender during the coming harsh winter, then Napoleon would direct his army to take a leave home and would wait for spring to attempt victory over this city.
Once inside the city, Napoleon and his officer came to an Inn where they found Russians soldiers drinking away their misery, and talking about the terrible hunger they suffered in resisting Napoleon's forces. Napoleon found the situation in the city to be truly dire. As he quietly attempted to slip out of the inn with his officer, he was suddenly noticed by one of the soldiers. Pointing at Napoleon, the Russian soldier exclaimed: “That man over there! That’s Napoleon!!" The other soldiers decided that their friend must be drunk. What would Napoleon be doing inside the city when he and his army were laying siege to it! The soldier insisted that he wasn’t drunk.
He had been in Paris before the war, and had seen Napoleon at close range. He was certain this was Napoleon! Napoleon’s officer struck on an idea that would hopefully allow them to leave with their lives. He demanded loudly and rudely that Napoleon bring him a drink. Napoleon, understanding that this was a ruse to get them both out of there safely, obeyed playing the obedient servant. Upon bringing the drink to his officer, Napoleon proceeded to spill it all over his officer. The officer then slapped Napoleon across the face, cursed him, and kicked him to the ground. The Russian soldiers seeing this, laughed at their friend who had claimed this man was Napoleon. Surely their friend must be drunk. Who could possibly treat the great General Napoleon in such a manner and expect to live! With the attention now turned away from them, Napoleon and his officer managed to slip away to safety. As soon as they were out of the city, the officer got on his knees and begged Napoleon for forgiveness. “For what? I owe you my life for what you did!" Napoleon proceeded to hug and kiss his officer. Napoleon promoted him to the highest rank possible. (From Sefer Ayal Hamilu'im as quoted in K’Tzais HaShemesh Bigvuraso.)
From this story of Napoleon, we learn an important lesson. There are times in a person’s life when difficult decrees from Heaven hang over him. Then, in HaShem’s kindness, HaShem sends the person an opportunity to tear up the difficult decrees. That opportunity comes in the form of someone who insults, hurts, or humiliates him in some way. If the one being hurt rises above his feelings and understands that these “smacks, kicks and humiliations” are coming to redeem him for life, or to grant him fortune and success, then he will accept the insults happily.
This tool is named "Remember Napoleon" because Napoleon understood that the insults, kicks and humiliation he suffered were coming to save his life. If Napoleon had protested and condemned his officer for insubordination, they would not have made it out of there alive! When we are faced with a test of being humiliated, we could, with practice over time, learn to respond: “Who knows what this might be saving me from!" Perhaps something life threatening was supposed to happen, and HaShem, in his great kindness, sent instead this opportunity to have the decree nullified—through accepting insults, letting go of hurt feelings, being m'vater (giving in), or remaining silent in an argument. This is even more challenging perhaps when one feels he is right. If I recognize that this person is actually a messenger from HaShem to save me from a harsh decree, even possibly a decree of death, this will fundamentally change my attitude and enable me to thank HaShem for such an opportunity! (from K'Tzais HaShemesh Bigvuraso by Rabbi Avraham Tobalsky)
We don't suggest actually thanking the person who hurt us or caused us humiliation. This might cause them to get even more angry. However, if we recognize the tremendous benefit we receive through them, we can thank HaShem for sending them as a messenger.
Remembering the lesson we learn from the story about Napoleon is a very powerful and effective tool to change a feeling of anger and hurt to relief and gratitude. With practice we can even learn to respond with: "Who knows what this might be saving me from!”
One day, in the kitchen, Rebbetzin Samet saw flames coming out of her oven, very close to the curtains. While she contemplated what to do first, the flames inexplicably retreated back into the oven. Once she recovered her regular breathing and thanked HaShem, she remembered the day before she had been publicallly embarrassed and had remained silent. Maybe her entire kitchen, or even her whole apartment, was due to be destroyed. Maybe the embarrassment took the place of the destruction and tore up the decree. We never know what our choosing to let go brings to us.
Discussion Question Options:
Think of a hurt you received. Remembering Napoleon, what would you now say to yourself to make peace with the other person?
What could we insert in our thinking process to deliberately create a pause, in order to prevent a defensive reaction?
Although we can never know with certainty what good HaShem has for us, what do we lose by labeling tests as opportunities to receive more of HaShem's blessings?
Stretch of the Week:
In a situation where you feel insulted or hurt, imagine this is coming to save you from something much worse.