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A Hard Truth for the 3 Weeks

July 25, 2017

By: Aryeh Ben David

The hard truth I need to face during these 3 weeks is that I have become someone that I don’t want to be.

I have fallen into an unhealthy spiritual routine. I have become full of anger, judgment, and self-righteousness. I have endless knee-jerk judgments. These responses are shallow, unnecessary, and do not help me become the person I aspire to be.

What happened to me?

The horrible terrorist attack on Shabbat in Halamish made my blood boil. Jews killed only because they were Jews. I fumed with anger that the brutal attack was barely covered in world media. And this anger cooks within me and flavors everything I do; everyone I see.

And it’s not only the attack. I seem to be drowning in hope-draining news. When I ask people what makes them lose hope, the most common answer I receive is: “Listening to the news”. I worry that I have become one of those people. And then I read the talkbacks to seemingly neutral and nice articles and feel infected by the vitriol and spite of their tone.

I feel intense anger – and my anger offers me an illusory moment of control. A fantasy of what I would do and say to right the wrongs all around me.

But the sad truth is that most solutions are beyond my control. My anger is only a false intoxicant.

Today, it is not in my power to solve the centuries old problems of the Middle East. I don’t have a magic wand to dispel the animosity between the denominations of Judaism. I struggle even to solve the parking problems of my neighborhood.

But I can still become the person I want to be. I can remember that the person next to me is also broken and carrying more than I will ever know. I can remember that my friend is on a different path than me, and that I can honor and respect this difference.

I’m working hard now during the three weeks to remind myself that I don’t need or want to carry my anger. My judgments are a sad excuse to make my life easier.

During these 3 weeks I can remind myself of the wisdom of Rav Kook: “It doesn’t matter how much people know or how observant they may be, when one becomes angry they are forgetting God.” Even Moshe was punished and not allowed to enter the Promised Land because, for a moment, he spoke in anger toward the Jewish People.

We need to build a nation from people who each have a different soul and journey.

Our first step is to remember that we really don’t know each other. I cannot let myself fall into the easy habit of judging people for how they look, where they live, or the little I see them do. I don’t know what their parents or grandparents did to them; I don’t know how they grew up; and I have no idea what they are carrying. If I could see inside their souls and taste their brokenness, would I be so quick to judge?

Years ago I wrote that for several days I walked around and tried to imagine the “sparkle” everyone had inside. My kids thought I was nuts but it helped me imagine the beauty and power of a soul and who these people truly were.

Now, my challenge during these 3 weeks is — to try to imagine the brokenness within all the people I see. We are all carrying brokenness. It is the plight of the human being. God created the world through the breaking of the vessels and we still live in a broken world. The Kotsker’s truth still rings deep: “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart”. During these 3 weeks we live in the shadow of Moshe breaking the tablets, the 10 Commandments. It is a time to become especially aware of our brokenness and live with greater humility and compassion.

It doesn’t help me solve the problems of the world. It doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to address these problems. But it helps me not become the person I don’t want to be.

It has been helpful for me to write down the hard truth I need to face during this reflective time.

What would you write? What is your hard truth that is so humbling to accept?

 During this broken time – I invite the Ayeka community to reflect on how we can live with greater humility and awareness of each other’s brokenness.