14 Sivan 5779 / Monday, June 17, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Choose Your Emotion

Shabbat Parah: Danny looked at his watch as the minutes ticked by. He had planned to ask Naomi to marry him, but meanwhile, he sat alone in the restaurant. Where was she?


Danny, after his first two dates with Naomi, had stars in his eyes. She was everything he was looking for in a prospective partner – attractive, intelligent, and good-hearted. He decided to “up the ante” on the third date, and invited Naomi to one of Brooklyn's best restaurants. They decided to meet at 8PM sharp...


Danny bought a new suit for the occasion. He showered and dressed as if this were his wedding night, for in his mind, tonight was the night that would lead to his wedding night. He looked in the mirror, straightened his tie and inspected himself from head to toe. He smiled widely, for everything was just the way it was supposed to be. He passed his own honor-guard inspection with flying colors.


The lucky cab driver who drove Danny from his parents' home in Flatbush to the restaurant in Boro Park received the best tip anyone gave him all month long. Danny arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early, and slipped the maitre-D a twenty-dollar bill to give him the most romantic table for two in an intimate corner near the fireplace. Danny was on top of the world; he thought to himself that Hashem repays the money spent on mitzvoth. What bigger mitzva is there than finding a wife and raising a family?


At 7:59 PM, Danny sat down to the table. He sipped the ice-water that the waiter poured him and looked at his watch: 8:02 PM. So what, he thought, women are never on time...


At 8:10, the waiter brought a small plate of fresh vegetable sticks with some paper-thin sesame wafers to munch on while deciding what to order. Naomi wasn't there yet. Danny tried to examine the menu, but he suddenly found that he had no attention span. Where's Naomi? It was 8:13. Danny started to fidget in his chair. At 8:16, he dialed Naomi's phone number. The phone buzzed for a dozen times until the answering machine kicked in.


The buttoned collar of Danny's shirt suddenly felt two sizes too small at 8:20. The waiter arrived and ask for Danny's order. “A-another m-minute,” he stammered. Danny thought that the waiter seemed to smirk as if to say, “You've been stood up, pal!”


Redialing Naomi's number at 8:30, Danny was doubly disappointed when once again, there was no answer. He felt a mixture of disparagement and dejection. To make things worse, at 8:40, the waiter returned and said, “Sir, if you're not going to order, then excuse me – ten couples are waiting in line for a table like this.”


Danny waited for an additional fifteen minutes on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. Naomi didn't show up. He couldn't believe that she'd do something like this to him. Not even a phone call, a text message? What's the big deal to flash a few words on WhatsApp? And he thought that her character was so good...


The anger and frustration robbed Danny of his sleep. He wished he hadn't come home, for having to answer all his parents questions added additional insult to injury. He wished he never met Naomi; he hurt all over, inside and out.


Barely getting out of bed the next morning, Danny was startled by his mother's sudden cries from the kitchen. “What? Hit by a car? Where? When? Crossing 13th Avenue? Is she conscious?” Danny's heart was stuck in his throat. After a moment of shock, he ran into the kitchen. His mother was speaking to Naomi's mother, who had spent all night with Naomi in the hospital. A drunk driver ran a red light and hit Naomi as she was crossing the street the previous night on her way to meet Danny. She suffered a broken hip and a mild concussion. She was in severe pain, but alive...


Danny looked like a weird spectacle looking in the bathroom mirror with tears running down his eyes and a mouth full of toothpaste suds. “You idiot,” he yelled at himself. “You thought you were the righteous martyr and that Naomi stood you up. You selfish fool! While Naomi was in agony, all you thought about was yourself!”

* * *


To make ourselves feel better, we can paint a happy ending: Danny learned a lesson for life, Naomi recovered, they married and lived happily ever after. Halvai – may all our tribulations end happily.


For the last 3,300 years, people have been baffled by the purification water made from the ashes of the Red Heifer, Para Aduma. The same water purifies those who are ritually contaminated, yet contaminates the ritually pure Cohanim (priests) who touch it while participating in its preparation process. How can the same entity purify the contaminated yet contaminate the pure?


Danny chose to feel insulted when Naomi didn't show up for their date. He felt “pure” and viewed her as “contaminated”; in other words, in choosing to be concerned about himself while failing to give Naomi any benefit of the doubt, Danny thought that he was right and she was wrong. The truth turned out to be the exact opposite – he was self-centeredly wrong and “contaminated” while she was “pure”, for she did nothing wrong. Indeed, she was now suffering while he was pitying himself.


The lesson of the Red Heifer is twofold in our everyday lives: first, the same situation is likely to be the exact opposite of what we construe. We must therefore avoid judging others unfavorably at all costs. And second, we have the free choice to choose our emotions. Danny could have chosen to be concerned about Naomi rather than descend to the mode of self-pity and misery.


Just as the purification water of the Red Heifer is a necessary preparation for Passover, commemorated by Shabbat Para, so we must rid ourselves of any negative feelings about others just as we rid our domains of chometz. By doing so, may we all soon merit to participate in the Pascal offering in our rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem, amen!



* * *

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Agree with #1
Dassie3/9/2015 9:22:02 PM
  love your teachingings
Anonymous,3/8/2015 4:56:41 AM

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