Thursday, June 16, 2022

Parshas Behaloscha 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Beha’aloscha

18 Sivan 5782/June 17, 2022

Avos perek 2


לזכר נשמת חו"מ נטע יצחק בן אלכסנדר


One of the more unpleasant parts of traveling is dealing with luggage. Not only do you have to pack your clothing, toiletries, and accessories for your trip, but it has to remain under a certain weight.

I have had the inglorious experience of having to open suitcases at the check-in counter in the airport, trying to shift contents from one bag to another and into carry-on. There’s nothing quite like a long line of people pretending not to look as they watch you in the corner of their eye try to subtly gather clothes off the floor of the airport.

If you’re lucky enough to get a compassionate agent, when she feels you have sufficiently humiliated yourself, and when she gets impatient enough, she may tell you just to put it on the belt and send it. Otherwise, she will tell you that you have to pay the fee for the excess weight.

I have also on occasion traveled for a day and didn’t have any luggage to check in. What a pleasure it was to be able to go through security without having to stop by the check-in desk and worry about weight and size. But traveling for any significant amount of time requires baggage, and there’s not much anyone can do about that.

In our vernacular we refer to people’s “stuff” - their emotional, familial, and personal challenges, as well as their internal struggles as their baggage.

In our baggage we carry our history of negative messages received or perceived throughout our lives, from parents, friends, teachers, society around us, and most significantly from within ourselves. Packed in there is also our bad habits, past failures and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Basically, anything that can impede our confidence and ability to grow is in our baggage.

There is no one who doesn’t have baggage. The worst about it is that it accompanies him wherever he goes, and he cannot check it in or send it underneath in cargo. Somehow it evades the extra fines and weight limitations and finds a way to be with us constantly.

One of the greatest inhibitors of happiness is that no one knows exactly when he has achieved it. I’ve heard from many clients that they “don’t feel happy”. When I ask them what it is they feel they are lacking in their lives, they shrug and say they just feel they should feel happier.

I ask them to consider if perhaps this is their moment of happiness, and one day they might look back and wonder why they didn’t enjoy or appreciate it more.

In 1979, a woman Vivian Green wrote a short poem that included the following powerful quip: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but about learning to dance in the rain.” There is a great deal of unappreciated wisdom in that quote. Most of the time we have no control over the storms of life that we encounter. The question is only if we can learn to dance in the storm, and to see the light in the tunnel. We don’t know when we will emerge from the tunnel or when/if the storm will end. The most we can do is to learn to navigate and even celebrate the present moment with all its frustrations and imperfections.

The same holds true for happiness. True happiness can only be achieved when one learns to make peace and see the blessing in whatever situation one finds himself.

We may feel we will be truly happy when we get a raise, move to the house of our dreams, get married, have a child or a grandchild, etc. But the real challenge is to find joy here and now.

If we want to rid ourselves of the weight of our emotional baggage, we have to first realize that we are schlepping it around with us. Only when we realize that it contains a lot of stuff we don’t need, can we begin to counter the negative messages that have become embedded within ourselves. We can then confront our traumas and demons and begin to process them in a healthy manner, so that they don’t lurk menacingly in the shadows of shame and pain.

But there is another important component to recognize in dealing with emotional baggage. Some of our emotional baggage is not easily left behind. Much as we wish we could discard it and move on, at times it may hold onto us. Even when we cannot rid ourselves of it however, we can still count our blessings and seek to be happy in the moment. Regarding that baggage we can proceed to the best of our ability despite its weight. It will tire us and take a toll, but we can keep our head up and not let it impede our progress to the best of our ability.

Happy travels.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum