Two weeks ago, I cited from Ramchal, both from Mesilas Yesharim and at greater length from Derech Hashem, that a person’s life is filled with nisyonos; that every event, every occurrence, everything that in the normal course of events would elicit a reaction from us — any type of reaction — is a nisayon for the person, a test within his or her parameters of bechirah, testing to see if he or she will grow, stagnate, or fall. To repeat, and it bears repeating , for it is the essence of the point:
Thus, all gratification and all suffering and all annoyances and all frustrations exist as a challenge and a test — and the nature of the challenge is what Divine Wisdom has decreed to be best for — and the life task of — each and every individual.
The manner in which all this is accomplished is beyond our ability to grasp and comprehend, and we can never understand it or perceive it fully. It is done with unimaginable wisdom, with each person treated according to his or her nature and potential and role in life.
I assumed the point would best be made, and the lesson best be learned, by taking an ordinary everyday-type example, and showing how ordinary everyday-type occurrences hold within them the key to people’s true success in life: to wit, not how much money they make, how many friends they have, if they have a nice house or run a successful business — but rather if they grow, if they refine their neshamah, if they become more spiritual, holy people ; if they emulate Hashem’s ways, and study them to know what they are. If people would see that in the most seemingly innocuous encounters of life there could be refinement, perfection — or its lack — and that THAT is what determines who they are, what they are, and their essential nature, surely more attention would be paid to those annoyances, disturbances, difficulties, and even hardships, to use them as stepping stones to growth, and to the realization that they occurred for that very reason! And the more ordinary, the more likely it is to be so!
(To satisfy your curiosity — and to satisfy those who felt it a bit inappropriate [not I, but I PASSED the nisayon of akshanus — stubbornness] — my so-called reactions to the mislabeling was, and in this piece will also be, a fictional account of my reaction, created to be an exhibit of the above. Consider it a fictional-version-aid to the lesson given.)
Let us now resume our story:
I fumed, “I will not let them get away with this. They think they can treat me with this cavalier attitude of theirs, probably because it’s ‘just’ the English section, the stepchild, if that, of the paper… Well, I’ll have them regret their middos ra’os… Maybe I’ll start with handing in my article late. Maybe a few hours, maybe a day… Maybe I’ll skip a week, maybe two — after all, it would be their just desserts, a fitting ‘punishment’ for their carelessness. It’ll show them how it feels when one is on the receiving end of carelessness, and they’ll be more careful. Yes, I can even consider myself their mechanech, their teacher, their Rav, teaching them how to treat people… ”
Really? You’re their mechanech? Maybe the more operative word is netirah, and nekamah (holding a grudge and taking revenge, respectively). You are, after all reacting to a personal slight (only perceived — but that happens to be irrelevant)… You were not their mechanech yesterday, you will not be tomorrow… If you want to meachanech them, go sit down with them and explain how you feel, how they must tighten up their operations. Now, you are just lashing back, hoping to hurt them as you’ve been hurt — and that’s the essence of the prohibition of nekamah! Tell me, would you do the things you are thinking if they would have done this to someone else, not yourself? Methinks not — always a great litmus test to check for nekamah… And so…
“But it is such bad fortune! Okay, on a scale of tragedies, it’s not epic, I won’t get carried away — but still, the ramifications are pretty bad. People will think I skipped a week, that I am not consistent, maybe that I don’t keep commitments. Who knows what this could — theoretically — lead to? It’s unprofessional and puts me in a bad light!”
Have you never learned the story of Rabbi Akiva and the rooster and candle? Have you never heard of Nachum-Ish-Gamzu, who teaches us the obligation to believe, and attempt to see, that all is for the good? That Hashem is good, and everything which emanates from him, is also only good?
“But what could be good about what happened?”
I don’t know, let’s think. Maybe the article was not well-written, and it is a bracha if many people skipped over it. Maybe you’ll have a flash of inspiration, and the mishap will allow you to drag the ‘nisyonos’ series another one, two, three even four columns, giving you material to write about, taking the column into a direction you hadn’t planned, and thus having the spontaneous opportunity to wake people up about a far-reaching truth concerning their lives! I do not think you would have gone in that direction if not for that typographical mistake!
“Fat chance of THAT happening!”
Well, you never know…
“Indeed, I suspect I never will.”
“Why should I give them the benefit of the doubt? What do they do for me? What have they ever done for me? Just headaches, aggravation, and pressure and stress!”
What about hakaras hatov? They give you a voice in the community, a platform to talk, to teach, to hold forth drashos in print, yes, to pontificate! Where’s your sense of gratitude?
“But how can I wait till next week to explain what happened?”
Where’s savlanus — patience, a middah Shlomo Hamelech extols in Mishlei (16:32): One who controls himself is better (i. e. stronger) than any mighty person?
“But how can they do this to ME??”
“But it’s driving me nuts!”
Serenity, simchas hachaim, same’ach b’chelko… ?
“But it didn’t happen to, let’s see, another fine writer, Shoshana Schwartz!?”
“But I don’t care that it’s not easy to put out a whole newpaper and thus mistakes will happen!”
“But I don’t want to have to explain!”
“I should act like nothing happened?”
Look, at the end of the day…
Whatever happened to the mitzvas assei of V’ahavtah l’rei’acha komocha? Let’s say YOU had made the mistake…?
To be continued
Rav Malinowitz is the Rav of Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, at the corner of Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz. Many of Rav Malinowitz’s shiurim can be heard at www.btya.org.