13 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Pinchas
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The Salt Saga    

The Salt Saga

Rebbe Nachman teaches us a wonderful lesson: the evil inclination rejoices not primarily over our fall, but rather over our inability to get up after the fall...


I'm one of those strange health fanatics that will eat a super-healthy salad filled with all kinds of yucky-tasting things, and then follow it up with a moist chunk of chocolate cake. I can easily rationalize eating the cake completely guilt-free. After all, didn't I just eat like a cow? And I'm not talking about the way I was chewing.
My diet varies like a roller coaster. On one extreme, I can be very health conscious. On the other extreme, I can be a very equal-opportunity eater. If it's kosher and able to be eaten, I'll eat it. Like my husband's rail-thin grandmother, Esther a”h, used to say, “I'll eat anything that doesn't eat me.” Except I never actually saw her eat anything.
Lately, I've been addicted to Himalayan salt. It's a beautiful light pink salt that provides tons of minerals and other good stuff that I have no idea about. Regular table salt is poison, and it should be outlawed along with white sugar (which I still use.) I get a gallon-size bucket o' salt at the local overpriced health food store in my town center. The other day, I ran out of my precious salt, so I decided to take the kids with me to do a little shopping after school. Oh, when will I ever learn?
When I pulled into the parking lot, the baby was getting sleepy, so I decided to pull the car up to the store and send my older kids in to get the salt. I gave them 50 shekel and made them promise me that they would bring back the change. They ran in, and I sat in the car, watching them and listening to my two-year-old scream bloody murder because I didn't let him go into the store with them. Poor baby- my little angel couldn't get a moment's rest!
A minute later, one of the kids ran out to my car with a bottle of salt. I explained to him that I wanted the smaller salt crystals. He ran back into the store to exchange the bottle. A few minutes later, he came back with the same type of salt in a smaller bottle. Trying not to get annoyed, I explained to him that I didn't want a smaller bottle; I just wanted smaller salt. Okay. He went back in for a third try, and came back with the same bottle of salt. By this time, I was annoyed and fed up with the screaming and kicks to the back of my chair.
I made a waving motion for my kids to come back to the car. I would deal with the white poison until they would have my salt in stock. My son saw me waving to him and made the famous Israeli “wait” hand motion back to me. I can't explain it if you've never seen it. All I can tell you is that every time someone does that motion, it reminds me of my grandfather. I usually find it very amusing- except for this time.
I couldn't understand why my son was just standing near the entrance to the store, as if he were waiting for something. Finally, he bolted out of the store and ran toward my car with money and a white slip in his hand. Uh, oh. What did he do??
He handed me some small change and a receipt for a store credit. “She said she can't give the money back, so you can use this store credit instead,” he explained proudly. What?? I can't have my money back? “Why did you give it to her?!” I wanted to know. He just shrugged his shoulders.
Super-annoyed, I stormed out of my car and rolled up my sleeves. This was gonna get nasty. Iraqi Balboa ain't no friar (Hebrew for sucker.) “Give me my money back,” I demanded. The cashier lady just stared blankly at me. “I didn't give you permission to ring me up. Give me my money back now,” I said, in a super-serious tone. No reaction. I snapped. “It is not fair that you charged me something a minute ago and refuse to give me a refund! I didn't allow you to make that charge! You took advantage of my kid! Blah, Blah, Blah!” To make matters worse, the customer behind me said that it's the law that she must return the money if it is immediately after the purchase.
I was fuming. Fire was about to come out of my nose. Apparently I must have started yelling at the poor woman, because a nice old lady walked into the store and berated me, “Why are you yelling?  Where's your emuna?" I was so shocked and amused by what she said, that I instantly shut my mouth.
I stood in front of my victim, waiting until she got the okay from the manager on the phone so she could give me my money back. Eventually, she did, and I left the store with righteous indignation.
As I drove home, my victory quickly began to lose its sparkle. I played over the entire scene, and amazingly I couldn't pinpoint what had spoiled my win for me. Hashem in His mercy quickly reminded me. “Yes, you were right to want your money back,” He told me. “But did you really have to yell at the woman?”
Double ouch.
Immediately upon arriving home, I called the health food store and apologized to the lady. I explained that I normally don't yell at strangers, only at family (especially my husband.) I also explained the reason I got so upset: I felt that she didn't care about the fact that I had lost 50 shekel and couldn't use it for something else. She understood and forgave me. I'm not sure if she forgave me because she pitied my craziness, or because she just didn't want to deal with me any longer.
The inevitable question I was left with was obvious. Why had Hashem set up this entire situation for me? Again, He gave me the insight I needed, and just in time. “Earlier in the day, you did a wonderful favor for someone else,” He began. “The mitzvah was so great, that the heavenly prosecutor was compelled to prevent the immense blessings from reaching you. So, I let him put you to the test,” Hashem explained.
“Wow, I failed miserably,” I lamented, genuinely sorry for my loss.
“On the contrary, My dear,” He told me. “You see, you were in danger of becoming arrogant over your tremendous mitzvah, so I put you in a position to demonstrate your humility. Although you got angry and made a fool of yourself in front of your children and a group of strangers, you have shown that you are indeed humble by apologizing to the woman. You have also recognized that without My help, you cannot rid yourself of any bad character trait. So, in fact, you actually passed your test. Mazal Tov!
Rebbe Nachman teaches us a wonderful lesson: the evil inclination rejoices not primarily over our fall, but rather over our inability to get up after the fall. This is where he traps us. If we apply Rebbe Nachman's advice- do teshuva and move on- we won't run around in circles, beating ourselves up for having failed our tests.
He sums it up perfectly in one of his greatest quotes: “If you believe that you can destroy, then believe that you can fix!”

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