We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week's tool was: Notice situations in which you are hurt or disappointed. Consider if using the tool of “Not Reuvain” might make a difference. Notice any situation that allows you to practice any of the tools learned to date.
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 #10 - Middos Development Program (MDP)
Tool #10: Middos Development Program (MDP)
With certain people we may feel, “Why did HaShem put this person in my life? Didn’t HaShem know that I do not need this type of… (neighbor, coworker, parent, in-law, husband, child)? I need someone warm and understanding, sensitive and nurturing, easy-going and even tempered.”
We know that HaShem does not make mistakes. If we have a difficult person in our lives, it must be because HaShem decided this is exactly what we need. That being the case, we could look at these people as part of our Middos Development Program. It’s the job of a personal trainer to determine what muscles need strengthening and to give us the exact exercises needed to strengthen those particular muscles. HaShem is our Personal Trainer. He knows exactly what middos need strengthening, and puts certain people in our lives to give us an opportunity to strengthen these precise middos, whether it’s patience, tolerance, humility, or forgiveness.
We need the challenging person in our lives to help us become more complete people and to help us grow. Rabbi Dr. Jerry Lob (Mishpacha Magazine, May 29, 2013) writes that just as every blade of grass in the world has an angel standing over it shouting, “GROW,” the difficult people planted in our lives are there to make us grow. “When someone pushes your buttons, take a deep breath, look inside, and…hear the angel shouting, GROW." And then say to yourself, “I know that HaShem has sent this angel just for me, to help me grow; to grow in controlling my anger, in patience, in compassion, in my commitment to caring for the feelings of others, to grow as a human being, and as a Jew, and to grow also in my trust of HaShem, realizing that He knows exactly who to send to me as His agent of growth.”
Story: (based on a true story)
While in high school Baila had not been very socially inclined. It was now two years after seminary and Baila made her friend’s shidduch. She couldn’t wait for the vort because it would be her chance to shine in front of her former classmates and teachers. While at her friend’s vort, when someone asked the kalla who had made the shidduch, Baila heard her answer: “A mutual friend." Baila was so hurt. She was sure the kalla must have been too embarrassed to admit that it was Baila, since she had never been part of the “in” crowd. It was a real blow to Baila’s self-esteem. Didn’t HaShem realize that she needed this opportunity to shine?
We really can’t go into the kalla’s mind to say why she answered the way she did. We are obligated to try to give her the benefit of the doubt. If that doesn’t help Baila, then she should move on to the other tools we have learned. Bringing HaShem into the picture, one can certainly say this could be a kappara. Additionally, perhaps this hurt was taking the place of a bad decree (Remember Napoleon) or an opportunity HaShem was sending her to merit HaShem’s blessings (Lottery Ticket). If these earlier tools don’t help reduce Baila’s suffering, she can recognize that HaShem is her Personal Trainer. She may have thought that what she needed was to bask in the glory of the moment when people would hear that she was the shadchan. Obviously, HaShem thought otherwise. Baila’s job was then to think about what middos HaShem might like her to strengthen. Perhaps HaShem was telling her to find her own inner strength, to be proud of her accomplishments, and not to depend on the approval of others. When we imagine the kalla as a messenger of HaShem, serving as a catalyst for Baila’s growth, then anger and hurt diminish, replaced by gratitude to HaShem for the opportunities provided.
From Yated Ne’eman The Editor’s View by R’ Lipshitz (June 7, 2013) (Reprinted with permission.)
Rav Yisroel Salanter's Mussar Movement changed the way Jews treat each other and interact with the world. There is a tradition that the revolution was sparked by Rav Yisroel's reaction to a pitiful incident.
The legend goes that there was a man named Yankel, who was a simple shoemaker in a small town. He was illiterate and unable to study much. He could barely daven or recite T'hillim. One day, he received a message that there was a letter on fancy stationary waiting for him at the post-office, postmarked from the big city. He rushed over and asked the postal clerk to help him read the letter. As the clerk read on, the initial frown on Yankel's face morphed into an ever-increasing smile. The letter informed him that his wealthy, childless uncle had passed away and left his fortune to Yankel the shoemaker. Yankel hurried home to inform his wife about their newfound wealth. He was overjoyed by how their life had just taken an unexpected turn. His wife rejoiced in the good news. but advised him to proceed with caution. "Yankel," she said, "don't just take the money and spend it on luxuries because eventually, it will run out and you will be back to fixing shoes. Go to the big city to claim your inheritance and then we will speak to the local g'vir and seek his advice on a business to invest in.
Wisely, Yankel listened to her suggestion and brought the money to a reputable local financier to invest for him. Within a short period of time, he was earning enough to be able to bid his shoe repair shop a final goodbye. He lived on his investment income and grew richer day by day. With nothing to do, he began to frequent the bais medrash, where he would pay young scholars to learn with him. First they taught him how to read, then to daven, and then to read Chumash. Eventually, he was learning G'mara. He felt good about himself as he steadily progressed.
The years passed. His sons were enrolled in various yeshivas, where they were good students. His upward trajectory, which included advancing in learning and doing very well financially, earned him growing respect in the small town. One day, a shadchan proposed the rav's daughter as a suitable match for Yankel's son. The two sides agreed, and the entire town rejoiced with the news of the match between this prominent individual and their revered rav. The entire town rejoiced, with one exception. Way back, next to Yankel's shoe repair shop, was a blacksmith. The two had been friendly, sitting on their stoops when business was slow, whiling away the hours in conversation. The blacksmith was never able to accept the fact that his neighbor, the shoemaker, had risen to prominence, while he had remained a simple laborer, working long hours and struggling for every penny. He would look on bitterly as Yankel would deliver a shiur or speak in learning with scholars.
Finally, it was the day of the wedding and the townspeople gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion. The chuppa was a grand spectacle, as befitting the rav's daughter. Yankel stood tall and proud, his face glowing with a surreal light. The glass was broken, shouts of mazel tov filled the air, and the music began to play. Yankel closed his eyes tightly, as well-wishers gathered around him, and he thought about HaShem's benevolence toward him. Here he was, a talmid chochom, a g'vir, and to top it all off, a m'chutan with the rav.
Yankel opened his eyes and prepared to joyously greet his guests. There was a crush of people around him, and at their head was his old friend, the blacksmith. "Yankel," he shouted above the music loud enough for everyone to hear. He reached under his coat and held up a pair of torn shoes for all to see. "Hey, Yankel, how much would you charge me to fix these shoes here? People looked on in horror. Yankel stood there, deflated, the joy seeming to rush out of him. The bitter, vicious ploy had worked. The blacksmith had come at the most glorious moment of Yankel's life and reminded him that he was really nothing more than a lowly shoemaker. The blacksmith's cruel tactic was the talk of the evening. The next day, Yankel passed away of a broken heart.
The story spread like wildfire and was retold in horror across Lithuania. When Rav Yisroel Salanter heard of the cruel and callous action of the blacksmith, he decided that a revolution, teaching the importance of tikkun hamiddos was necessary. He took the task upon himself and the rest is history.
Rav Nota Zenwirth, one of Yerushalayim's tzaddikim, would retell the story and offer his own insight. He would say, "Do you know why Rav Yisroel was shaken so badly by the story? No, it was not because of the bad middos of the blacksmith. It was because of the bad middos of Yankel, the ba'al simcha." He would explain: "Here was this accomplished man--learned, wealthy, blessed with nachas from his children--and yet, the opinion of someone else, the nastiness of a small person, had the ability to affect him so badly that it literally killed him. He should have been able to simply ignore what the poor, sad person had done. "Why can't you look at what you have and ignore him? That he wasn't able to do so, and that no one expected him to, is what convinced Rav Yisroel of the necessity of the Mussar Movement."
The Torah relates that after the ketores offerings of Korach and his followers were refused, Elazar HaKohain hammered out the pans in which they were prepared and used them to cover the mizbay'ach so that the Bnai Yisrael would remember "v'lo y'hiyeh k'Korach v'cha'adaso", not to be like Korach and his group (Bamidbar 17:5).
Most of us aren't vicious hate-mongers and we view ourselves neither as acting "like Korach" nor as remotely afflicted with his bad middos. We wonder why it was necessary to have a regular reminder not to be like Korach. When we read the story that gave birth to the Mussar Movement, how many of us understood that the impetus for the revolution in personal conduct and the ethics was that Yankel should not have paid attention to what the blacksmith said? That should be an indication that we should be dedicating more of our time to studying s'forim that deal with moral behavior. No, we are not as bad as Korach, but as long as we permit our eyes to mislead us, we possess in our consciences the seeds of personal failure.
Let us all count our blessings, appreciate what we have, and know that HaShem has a unique plan for each of us. We have everything we need to thrive and flourish as avdai HaShem. Our situation is different than anyone else's and we gain nothing by gazing disapprovingly at what other people have. Everyone has different maalos and chesronos, different kochos and different nisyonos. How we deal with them is what our lives are all about.
May we all merit the b'rachos of "tov ayin hu y'vorach" [A person who looks on others with a good eye, he will be blessed.] (Mishlai 22:9).
Discussion Question Options:
In a long term relationship such as a family member, Not Reuven won’t be a good enough tool. How could this tool of the Middos Development Program be helpful to you instead?
Imagine what middos HaShem wants you to develop given the pattern of challenges people bring into your life.
What will you say to yourself to help reduce your suffering and remind yourself that a given painful relationship comes to help you develop your middos?
Stretch of the Week:
View any situation during the week in which you are hurt, embarrassed or angry as uniquely customized by your personal trainer for your Middos Development Program.