Knowing that everything is from Hashem and thus for my benefit does a lot to dampen any fire swelling up in my heart.
It doesn't mean that I win the battle against anger every single time, but a lot of progress has been made over the years, baruch Hashem.
But emuna doesn't only mean knowing that everything is from Hashem and therefore, of benefit. It also means knowing that there is a message from Hashem too.
That initial flash of temper or seething indignation are a pressing doorbell being rung by the Creator Himself.
What is He trying to tell me?
Things that Make You Seethe
If one mommy got on the bus with a stroller, the girl moved to the side.
But if another mommy with a stroller got on, the girl did not move out of the way so that the second mommy could fit her stroller in too.
And yes, the girl noticed. She still didn't make room for the stroller.
And yes, the mommies glanced at her because her behavior was so unusual (and also hoping she would let the second one in), but she didn't seem to notice.
And this is especially weird in the frum community (this was a very modernish-looking frum girl) because the girls are raised to be sensitive about this scenario and many have seen their mothers struggle with strollers on the bus, and many have also struggled with taking their younger siblings on the bus in a stroller.
So it's very bizarre to see a frum girl behaving with such a lack of consideration in this area.
And this kind of thing really, really bothers me.
It makes me seethe inside — especially when I see how hard it is for the second mommy to keep her balance, holding onto a pole and also trying to keep her unsecured stroller from swinging around (and keeps glancing at the girl, clearing wondering why she doesn't make room for the stroller).
And I learned over the years not to fight someone else's fight unless they really need me to. I learned the hard way that it's not always best to speak up every time I see something like this, even though I know how to do it quietly & gently.
Israeli society is an assertive society, and Israelis don't usually need me to stand up for them — unless I see that one really is too timid to stand up for herself (especially if it's a child or preteen). Then I'll come to their aid. But in this kind of situation, these women are perfectly capable of politely asking the girl if she could move a bit.
But they don't.
And I'm seething.
So according to Torah Judaism what should I do?
1) Giving the Benefit of the Doubt
Maybe the space-hogging girl doesn't notice? That's common enough.
But as I look at the girl, I find it hard to believe that she really doesn't notice. Yes, she's involved with her cell phone, but not all the time. She does look up and she does see them.
Maybe she has some kind physical problem or pain that makes sitting or going up the step to the back section after the stroller-square uncomfortable?
But she seems to get off the bus with no problem at all, and that involves a pretty steep step.
Okay, so maybe she has a problem with sitting AND a balance problem, so standing in the square is the most comfortable and secure place for her?
In that type of situation, the person sometimes apologizes and offers a brief explanation why they aren't accommodating others. But people don't always feel comfortable explaining themselves, so they don't. So maybe that's how she is too.
And that's the best I could come up with, even though she doesn't look like she's struggling with knee or hip or balance issues.
But you really never know. I think we've all been surprised before by people who really seemed fine, but actually weren't.
2) Pray for the Seethe-Inducing "Sinner"
And I'm still seething.
And it happens every time with this same girl.
And I seethe!
The next step is to mentally say a little prayer that the girl does teshuvah on her own with no negative impetus; she should just awaken on her own.
But despite my heartfelt tefillahs, she still rudely hogs the stroller area.
3) What is Hashem Trying to Tell Me?
After all, it's no coincidence that I'm faced with this seethe-inducing situation.
And it's no coincidence that, despite being an assertive society, these Israeli mommies don't say a word to her, or even cast nasty glares her way.
Why am I faced with this specific scenario?
So I try to think of situations in which maybe I am doing something obviously inconsiderate that literally everyone else knows better not to do, while I remain oblivious.
And though I am far from perfect, I couldn't think of an inconsideration as blatant as this.
So the next time I spoke with Hashem, I brought this up.
And I got the following straight-between-the-eyes message...
Look Up! Take Notice! And GET MOVING.
One Jew's actions (for better or for worse) affect every single other Jew.
Just one more transgression on the part of one Jew can tip the scales toward harsh decrees in Heaven.
Yet just one more good deed on the part of one Jew can tip the Heavenly scales toward merit & compassion — toward Geula.
That one mitzvah might be the last stone in the building of the Heavenly Beit Hamikdash that brings it down to Earth.
Likewise, I realized that Hashem was telling me to clean up my act.
Yes, I've made spiritual progress over the years.
But I need to step up my game.
I don't own a smartphone, but I can certainly miss the mark in other ways.
Hashem was basically telling me:
"How can you just stand there? Look up! Pay attention to your fellow Jews! For better or for worse, your actions affect them & the Nation's Heavenly Scales as much as your actions affect your own Heavenly Judgement. Please be less self-absorbed. When you don't do the right thing, you inconvenience your fellow Jews in ways you don't even perceive. If you can't have mercy on your own soul, at least have mercy on the souls of others. So please wake up and get moving!"
And guess what?
I haven't seen her since.
Maybe it's because I got the message?
The Lesser You vs. The Greater You: Pick One
I was just like, "Whoa! Wake-up call!"
(Just for clarification: I do work on myself, but apparently I need to step up my game. No surprise there.)
And that's fine.
But the point of this is that had I been like my old self, I would've just continued to seethe, hate that girl for being mean to mommies and babies (and kind of endangering them by not allowing their stroller to be in a secure place).
Maybe I would have said something to her, maybe not, but I would've been really angry with NO purpose to that emotion.
And therefore, NO GROWTH.
And then you know how it goes:
Theoretically, I would just vent to my husband or my friends or even on Facebook or Twitter (neither of which I use; this is a theoretical example) with this whole What-is-the-world-coming-too? tone and huff about how it's even a FRUM girl, and what's wrong with the frum community today?
(Even though she is the ONLY girl I've ever seen do this in this way, so how on earth does that reflect on the entire frum community? Does ONE consistently thoughtless girl in over 2 decades of living in frum communities make a generalization all of the sudden?)
Maybe I would even surreptitiously photograph the girl with the smartphone (which I don't own in reality) and upload the image to social media accompanied by some kind of outraged quip followed by lots of !!!!!!!!!! or ?????????.
And again, with absolutely no to'elet whatsoever.
And no growth!
In fact, the opposite: Indulging in such angry & self-righteous & obsessive behavior actually makes us smaller and lesser people.
Just dumping a whole lot meaningless negativity all over myself and other people?
That stunts spiritual growth.
But because of Rav Shalom Arush and the writings and shiurim of other real Torah Jews, I was finally able to at least start to develop spiritual tools to deal with anger and anger-inducing situations:
- Give the benefit of the doubt as far as you can (WITHOUT justifying truly forbidden behavior).
- Daven for that person to improve.
- Look for the message: What is Hashem trying to tell ME? Because despite appearances, it's not as much about the other person as we tend to assume.
Again, not that I do this splendidly every time. I don't. (In fact, with the above situation, it took several times of seeing this before I could fully complete Step 3. And even after completing Steps 1 & 2, I was still seething!)
And that's fine.
You have to start somewhere.
If you find yourself with the tendency to indulge in anger, self-righteousness, huffiness, obsessive thinking, and all that, then you're not going to overcome all that in a day.
But you need to start.
You just see these challenges as a way to connect to Hashem, and then you go for it.
May we all succeed in completing our soul tikkun in this gilgul without nisayon or bizayon.