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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemot

Parshat Shemot

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemot                                                                  Print Version
21st of Tevet, 5782 | December 25, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary
Control Your Emotions

Let’s have a conversation – me and you, the reader.

It's so important to understand the world of feelings and emotion, especially if you're dealing with other people. This is a huge and important topic today. In families, a huge, huge topic. Within so many families, emotions run awry all the time. We try to be right at the end of the day, but being right makes the other person feel bad. And so as a result, we're right, but the other person doesn’t buy into whatever it is because they don't want to. They feel bad. This happened to me once. I’ll never forget.

A mom brought her son to one of my speeches, and he was a professed atheist. I really mean an atheist. People are agnostic, people are ignorant, people are questioning, people are struggling. That's called being a human being. But knowing that there's no G-d as if you are living with proof is something else.

The boy comes up to me after the speech and he's giving me the run-down: there's no G-d… Now, as opposed to me doing the right thing, which would have been to hear him out and see where he is coming from, I didn't do that. I don't know why. The lawyer in me, just like him, took over. I began picking apart each argument, just like everything they train us as lawyers. Isolate the argument, pick it apart to show the logical flaws and destroy it. Next. Next. Piece by piece by piece, round and round and round. It’s now going on and on. Nonstop. When it was over, he had nothing else to say. But we were both walking away feeling off.

Maybe at one point I won the battle, but lost the war. Why? Because for this boy, it was about feelings, and the mind in many ways follows those feelings. I know we like to think otherwise. Few people make decisions based on intellect alone. They most often don’t go, “Oh, that was wrong. I'm out.” Very few people look themselves in the mirror and say flat out, without any emotions clouding their thoughts, “I put on too much weight. I'm done.” And then they have no more need to eat. For most of us, it's all about feelings. “I put on too much weight. I'm done… But it’s so hard. Ohhh…” And so at the end of this conversation, as opposed to having a person feel empowered to search for G-d and search for depth, which requires a lot of hard thinking and searching, I beat him. As opposed to encouraging a person, who was struggling, to search, I beat him and left him more disempowered. I left him more disenfranchised with his own religion.

That's how it works.

We are living in the game of feelings when we talk to people. We are living in the game of feelings when we understand ourselves. The victim mentality, the microwave dinner, if you will, is our way of being okay without really being okay with what we have, because we are not empowered enough to fight for more. You got to know that. Understand that. Sometimes, we are not pushing ourselves because there's some other feeling that I have been okay with and that I feel comfortable in. That has taken over. And getting hooked on mediocrity keeps us in a comfortable place and we don’t push ourselves, because we've gotten used to whatever it is.

When we're engaged in conversation and all we're doing is pushing the person further away from the very thing we want to bring them close to, we’ve got to change our mindset. When the boy stops me after the speech and says to me, “There's no G-d!” what do I want for him? I want nothing more than to talk to him, and when I'm done, for him to think, “Whoa! You're right. I got to look into this.” But all I did was push him further away because I wasn't fully aware that feelings are what's going to drive this boy’s behavior. Maybe I can go toe to toe intellectually with him, because I've thought about it longer, but that will lose the war.
The boy clearly had other reasons why he was upset at G-d. He didn't fully think through all the implications of atheism. He's rejecting his family or his school, and he's using G-d because that gets a rise out of people. Had I just thought about that or other potential reasons for his atheism, I would have shifted my approach. Wait, he’s not rejecting G-d. He doesn't know anything about G-d!

How you feel is what drives behavior. Keep this in mind. Making your son feel bad about cleaning his room is only going to push him away from cleaning his room. Making the boy feel bad, making your spouse feel bad, or making anyone feel bad about something will only drive them further away from the very thing that we want to bring them closer to.

That is one point, and is true when we deal with other people. Now, when it comes to ourselves, it’s a different story.
For ourselves, we must understand that not doing something because we feel bad is not the way to go. Feelings cannot run our life. Not at all. Letting emotions control you and lead you runs your life downwards. The feeling that, “I don't want to do it,” “I'm overwhelmed,” – whatever holds us back from achieving the life we can achieve – that cannot be the barometer of how we live. Maybe in the past you were forced to be organized by your parents or school. Maybe in the past, the environment pushed you down. Now, you may be ten years older or graduated high school. Whatever the case, life is different and the circumstances that were once pushing you down are now gone. At this point, any emotion which runs your life and prevents you from getting done what you must is not serving you. And you must set it aside. Live your life without it.

I saw this with a friend of mine, a senior businessman in a nice sized company. It was a family owned business. He's well regarded, and I watched him grow. He was telling me about his career and how recently something happened where he could solve the problem and help, but he lacked the confidence to do so. He had extreme financial confidence, but wasn’t a strong man. He was waiting to get permission from other people. He was meek.

The truth is, that permission wasn’t coming. In business, sometimes they don't give you permission, and you must assume initiative and responsibility. But he had this feeling, “Unless they give me permission, I can’t do it.” If someone appoints me, they promote me, they make me in charge, I could do it. But just to step into the role and take this on, no chance.

He comes from a world where he never felt like he was the head of the class. It's a feeling. It's a feeling, “I can't do that without permission.” And sometimes that viewpoint is appropriate, but sometimes it's not. Here it wasn’t. The feeling of, “I know I could do it, but I won’t” was pretty familiar a feeling for him. But this feeling wasn’t serving him. He was whirling in emotions and couldn’t put that aside and control it as opposed to having them control him. He was struggling because he knew he could do it, and it could go really well and he would do really well, and no one would ever hand him the permission, no one would stop engaging in all the politics and say, “You do it.” He had a feeling. It was given to him, if you will, because he wasn't the smartest kid in the class and he didn't come from the background where he could do whatever he believed was right. So now he was stuck. This internal comfortable feeling of, “If they didn't tell me I should, I won’t do it,” was holding him back.

That feeling was more appropriate when he was younger. But now, as he got older, it wasn’t there, in his face. Those constraints didn’t take place anymore. He was free. He could do it. Except… he had the feeling that he can’t.

Pay attention to your feelings. Pay attention to how you feel about things and ask yourself, “How did I get this feeling? Why don't I want to do this? Why don’t I want to take this on? It's going to give me more. It's going to make me greater.” What you'll find is that many times it's part of your memory. And the memory was a moment when it didn't work out. But that was the past. That’s not today. And don’t let your feelings control you. Control them. Set them aside and live your life without those emotions that don’t serve you.

So when it comes to other people, we must know what wavelength we’re working on. People are emotional and use that gauge more than intellectual convincing and explanation. It seizes greater control than our cognitions. We can’t expect that of others. However, when it comes to ourselves and we can control ourselves and choose our life, we must know how to live effectively. And that means controlling our emotions and determining whether a particular emotion is serving us to live our best, in the moment and in the long-term picture. Acknowledge your feelings, be aware of them and respect them, but contain and compartmentalize them and move on to take care of life without letting them run the show.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Words Can Save

Some time ago I was at a Shabbaton when a young man came over to me and shared what a difficult time he had growing up in the school system. By the time he was fourteen years old, he had been expelled from eight yeshivas. Why so many?

“Everybody wanted me,” he said. “I like the attitude,” I shot back. The truth… nobody could deal with him. At home, his father was even harsher than the principals. He would come home and his father would punish him, double the amount, because of what happened in school. Instead of feeling the safety and the embrace of his father, he was given distance and apathy. When he turned fourteen, his father put him on a plane to Israel. “Even he couldn’t stand me,” the man said.

When I arrived, I started going to one Slonimer shul in Bnei Brak. I had no other place to go. Every day, there stood a ninety-five-year-old man, whom I later learned was Asher Arkovitch. He had been a Partisan in the Second World War and survived. He got married, but for the past ten years, his wife had been ill, and he had taken care of her. Recently, she had passed away, leaving Reb Asher, at age 95, alone. But even with his loss, Reb Asher davened as if he was truly talking to G-d. It was a real, bona fide conversation. You could feel his words in the room.

One morning, after everyone had filed out of the shul, those who remained were the boy and Reb Asher. With just the two of them, Reb Asher turned to him and said, “I haven’t seen you around before. What are you doing here?” The boy told him exactly the situation. “I haven't had luck in any school system. I was expelled from eight schools, and my father sent me here to Israel.” Reb Asher looked the boy in the eye and gently said, “You know, we say every day in the prayer of Ashrei, ‘Le’hodia livnei ha’adam gevurosav … - To inform mankind of Your [G-d’s] greatness.” Literally, it means that G-d wants us to spread recognition about His strength and royalty. But the Maggid of Lechevitch provided another interpretation. You know why we talk so much about G-d's infinity and majesty? To inform each and every person of their own greatness.

With every person you meet, draw out their strength and let them know about it. Show them their own beauty, their own glory, their own profundity, their own holiness. We talk about G-d's greatness, not because He needs our compliments, but because we need to do the same to others. If G-d is great, that means He didn't make a mistake when He created you. If G-d is omniscient and omnipresent, that means that when He created you, He was making the statement that the world is incomplete without your contribution. Make others cognizant of their own power, of their own fortitude, of their own majesty, of their own creativity, of their own inner, infinite dignity and light and gift.

“Rabbi Jacobson,” said this man, now an adult, standing in front of me, “I got into another yeshiva in Israel, and six months later, I was expelled. I then got into a tenth school a half a year later, until the principal said, “You're not for us.”

Here I was, 15 years old with a record of ten schools expelling me. I had nobody to turn to. I didn’t have a father to call. I was so lost in the world that I decided I can't live any longer. The pain was just too deep. The loneliness, the solitariness was just too profound. One morning I walked to the roof of a tall building. It was 11 o'clock in the morning. I began pacing at the edge of the roof, about to jump and take myself out of my agony. And suddenly, I had a flashback of that conversation I had one year ago when this old Jew. Asher Arkovitch found me and told me, ‘Whatever happens, never forget about your strength.’ And there and then, on that rooftop, I told myself, ‘You know, before I jump, I first have to become aware of my strengths and then I'll make a decision.’ I walked back. I went down. I got my life together, and here I am today, married with three beautiful children and an extraordinary wife. And I built a successful business.

I looked at the man who had tears streaming down his eyes. My eyes also moistened. Would Reb Asher ever have known the impact his words had on that morning in a Slonimer Shul in Bnei Brak to a fourteen-year-old boy? Could he have imagined the life-altering influence? They literally saved a life from suicide.
Don’t be stingy with words. Don't be stingy with gestures. Don't be stingy with hugs. Don't be stingy with embraces. Don't be stingy with letting every person you meet know about their strengths, their beauty, their amazing gifts.

Every person is a manifestation of Hashem in this world. This is true of anyone. And what about your own children? Never take your sight off that target. When you believe in your children, you allow them to believe in themselves.

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