11 Tishrei 5781 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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Control Issues    

Control Issues

The expanse of the ocean, the miles of empty beach and the mountains rising quickly behind in a green wall of trees make this a most conducive place for personal prayer…


The Pacific Ocean is about a 4 hour drive from my home. Considering my family enjoys road trips (ok I enjoy road trips, they indulge me), we have been known to drive to the coast, have lunch, put our toes in the sand and be back home in time for dinner. Before you envision palm trees and the sun-warmed sand of southern California, let me tell you, I live in the Pacific Northwest where proper beach attire includes layers, a hooded sweatshirt and possibly even a jacket on most days. The beaches are wide open, dotted randomly and at significant intervals with families and their brave children who just must splash and squeal in the chilly water. Even the most popular beaches rarely seem to have more than a dozen people exploring and playing.


Our last trip was magnificent – the weather was sunny, in the 70’s and just an ever so slight breeze. A perfect day to be there as a family enjoying the overwhelming awesomeness that is the ocean. My husband and I wanted the day to last as long as possible, and that means one thing – keep our son out of the water as long as possible. Once he goes in we’re on the countdown to going home. That water is COLD and one can only play so long before needing to warm up… and even a warm day on this beach is not enough to get you dry.


Here’s the problem though. Like my son, I also can’t wait to get in the water. To drop my shoes and run out until the freezing water covers my feet and starts kissing the edge of my clothes. Only then to turn and squeal and race the next wave back up the shore before my clothing gets soaked. Place that scene on repeat and you’ve got an idea of my time at the beach. This goes on until the waves win and I end up soaked and cold and covered in sand, wondering why I did it but knowing deep down I’ll do exactly the same thing the next time.


The beach we’d chose this day was a new one to us and, unlike many of our beaches that drop off suddenly to deep waters and massive waves, this beach went out as far as I could see with flat sand and shallow waters. The waves were gentle and barely knee deep by the time they came to shore. We (my son and I) couldn’t stand just playing on the sand so we took off for the water with my husband smiling and tagging along behind.


One of the reasons I love the beach is that it’s a place that draws forth my prayers easily. The wind is blowing, catching my words as they pour fourth. I feel less constricted there – the expanse of the ocean, the miles of beach basically empty of people, the mountains rising quickly behind me in a green wall of trees – it is a place very conducive for personal prayer.


On this day, as I stood in ankle deep water staring out at the ocean whispering prayers to the Creator, I realized I have control issues. You see, I’d happened to glance down at my feet and noticed that I was standing at the intersection where the waves would actually cross. Instead of cresting straight up to the shore, at this point one wave was cresting and heading north and another wave would crest and head at a southern angle. I was standing exactly at the point where these waves would crisscross one another making a distinct V in the ripples of the water. My first thought? “That’s not right! That’s not how waves are supposed to go!”


It was beautiful, different, unusual, interesting and my first reaction was to, in essence say it was wrong (and therefore my idea of how the waves should crest was right). Thankfully, my second thought was to ask Hashem what the message was here.


The answer was humbling and spot on – I have control issues…. So much so that I had the gall to even have an opinion on how the Creator’s waves are “supposed” to come to shore. Ahhh. “Alright Hashem, where else do I have control issues?” I inquired honestly wishing to know. The list came pouring forth. I’ll save you the details – let’s just say it was a long list and something I’m working on to this day.


Thinking it over I realized that my control issues are really lack of emuna issues. Ding ding ding! I won the prize! I need to strengthen my emuna in all areas of my life – not just when things go “wrong” according to my limited view. Not just when things go exceptionally “right” in my opinion. I need to strengthen my emuna that my flight delays are for the best; that the burnt toast is for the best. That the color of socks my son picked out is for the best; that my husband’s work is for the best. And that the waves crossing at strange angles… even that is for the best and does not need to be fixed or modified by me.



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Jennifer invites you to participate in a regularly held Noahide on-line study group that reviews the garden series books of Rabbi Arush. You can contact her at jenniferjwoodward@gmail.com to be added to the weekly newsletter for dates and times. Visit the blog at noahidenews.blogspot.com

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