Friday, September 2, 2011

Shoftim 5771

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shoftim

3 Elul 5771/September 2, 2011 -- Pirkei Avos – Chapters 1& 2

I’m not really sure who invited her but, invitation or not, Irene burst across the East Coast with a fury this past week. No one knew for certain the course the storm would take, exactly when it would hit, how great the carnage would be, and who was most vulnerable to her fury. In full strength Irene was a category 1 hurricane, replete with over 100 mph sustained gusts of wind with tremendous downpours of rain. The ground and trees, already saturated from a record breaking month of rain, and the already swelling rivers and lakes, were unable to absorb the excessive rains, which would only exacerbate the damage the storm would wrought.

Everyone knew it was coming and knew they had to prepare, including making sure there were working batteries in flashlights, filling up bathtubs with water, turning up the fridge and freezer, etc. But all of those measures were merely precautionary. When the storm actually hit there was nothing to do but wait apprehensively hoping we will be able to weather it relatively unfazed.

Any type of natural disaster is scary and daunting. This includes not only natural meteorological disasters, but also natural disasters borne out of unrestrained human emotions, as in the following example:

Irene was the type of woman you just never knew what to expect from. She was friendly and good-natured, and loved to help others in need. There was only one problem; she had a terribly volatile temper. It didn’t take much to set her off and it was hard to know exactly what would set her off. She could be fine one minute, but then a minute later she could be screaming a barrage of sharp invective at anyone, about anything. In her fury no one was safe. She could rehash any wrongdoing anyone one around her had ever done, even years earlier. In her worst moments she could even break things and hurt her children.

It was impossible to know how long a tirade would last or how severe it would be. When it finally ended she calmed down fairly quickly, and then she resumed her routine as if nothing happened.

Her closest friends had told her repeatedly that she had to work on her temper and learn to control it. Her response was always the same, ‘This is the way I am and there’s nothing I can do about it.’ As the years went by her friends drifted away from her, simply out of fear to be in her vicinity. Her family however, was forced to endure her rampages with trepidation. The emotional pain she inflicted upon them was very deep indeed.

The Sages warn us repeatedly about the evils of unrestrained anger, even comparing someone who loses themselves to anger as being tantamount to serving idolatry. They also warn that one should never create a sense of tenseness and fear in their home.

The Irene that preyed upon us this week caused tremendous financial damage, heartache, and G-d forbid, even some lives. The Irene in our story causes tremendous psychological and emotional damage on an ongoing basis.

Natural disasters are always dangerous and frightening. May Heaven protect us from all types of natural disasters, and may we never be the catalyst or cause for personal natural disaster.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum