25 Kislev 5778 / Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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Mind Your Manners    

Mind Your Manners

Why are so many people so far away from doing the many things that they know they should be doing differently in their lives? Why are so many people so far away from G-d?


A lady comes into the crowded waiting room of her family doctor and walks straight ahead of everybody into the doctor’s office.


There’s a commotion. People protest.


“You have to wait your turn!”


“But I have an appointment at 9 o’clock.”


Another woman says: “No, I have an appointment at 9 o’clock. My name is written there on the board - yours isn’t!”


Trying once again, she says:  “Well, it’s an emergency.”


“An emergency? I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to wait your turn like everybody else. I’m sure that everyone here has an 'emergency' of their own."


What’s wrong with this lady? Didn’t anybody teach her manners? How could she grow up and still not know proper etiquette? Didn’t anybody ever teach her that she has to wait her turn?


Of course they did, and she’s been hearing about it and reading about it for years…


The problem isn’t that she doesn’t know (somewhere in the back of her mind) the difference between what’s right and wrong. That’s what infuriates people about her.  If she were a walking zombie who had no connection to reality people would understand. But they can’t understand how an intelligent well-put-together woman can have the gall to behave like this.


Do you think that this is the first time that she’s tried to push herself ahead of others?  I don’t. And do you think this is the first time that she’s angered a group of people?  I doubt that too. It’s also probably not the first time that she has been corrected by people who do know the truth about how we’re supposed to behave in these situations.



So why doesn’t she get it? Why does she keep making the same mistake over and over again?


Rabbi Shalom Arush tells us the answer in chapter five of In Forest Fields. The reason that she still fails to act on what she certainly knows is true is because she simply hasn’t spent enough time thinking about what she knows is true. A person can know that it’s right to wait her turn, and that she should be careful to not steal the time of other people, and still repeatedly fail to live this way if she has not taken the time to really internalize this idea.


The only way to internalize this idea or any commandment that the Torah says is true is to take time to ask G-d to help us clarify and understand and believe how important it is to care more about other people. We also need the time to ask G-d to help us to believe that we, as individuals, have the ability to make this idea part of ourselves and how we live. It’s like the difference between a person who hears an inspiring speech and prays that he will be able to actualize what he’s heard and someone else who enjoys the momentary inspiration but doesn’t work on holding on to the wonderful gift that he just received. Rabbi Arush writes that there are many people who believe in G-d but because they don’t believe in themselves, they give up on fighting to live the way that they know that G-d wants them to live. Believing that you are a worthy and viable vessel capable of carrying out G-d’s will, is essential for anyone who wants to truly serve the Creator.


Without quiet times of solitude, the pull of this tumultuous world robs people of the chance to speak to G-d and take stock of themselves as in the following example:


“Dear G-d, please help me to understand why it’s important to wait my turn and value the time of other people…please help me next time and in all future times to act properly…please help me to overcome the obstacles that have prevented me from acting properly in the past…and most of all help me to believe in myself because surely since You have made me, I must be a fitting vessel to carry out Your will. Please, G-d teach me to put others before myself. Help me to see that my life and the lives of my children will be better off if I will be more sensitive to the needs of others.”


Why are so many people so far away from doing the many things that they know they should be doing differently in their lives? Why are so many people so far away from G-d Himself? Rabbi Nachman of Breslev sums it up in two words which can be easily misunderstood. He says it’s due to a lack of a “settled mind.”


The problem here is that we don’t really know what Rebbe Nachman means by a “settled mind.” We think he is telling us to just chill out and relax and then everything will be Okay. A person could easily think that all he has to do is to go on YouTube and watch some guided imagery videos or travel to India and learn oriental meditation – then they’ll have a settled mind and will come close to G-d and  live a sweet, happy, wonderful  life – NOT SO!


Thank you Hashem for our great and righteous teachers!


If we didn’t have great and holy teachers like Rabbi Shalom Arush to tell us what Rebbe Nachman means, we would all be misled into thinking that we can hypnotize, or EMDR, or EFT, or NLP, or CBT our problems away – but this type of mental relief is not at all what Rebbe Nachman endorses because it will never be strong enough to do any of us any real good. These methods, at best, result in a very weak and temporary type of mental relief.


What all of these secular therapies miss is that we must also take quiet time for ourselves to clarify what we believe is true and differentiate it from what we know is not true. A person can only achieve lasting happiness, confidence and peace of mind if he knows that he is living according to the values that he knows are true. Only when a person has truly internalized that it is wrong to steal or to lie or to speak badly about other people will he stop doing it. He needs to be so absolutely convinced of his truth that nobody could ever convince him otherwise. This freedom from doubting himself and what he knows is true will align him with his true purpose and he will cease to repeat the silly mistakes that he’s made for years. Once he has internalized what he believes in every area of his life, he will even thank G-d for the years of darkness and confusion that he needed to traverse in order to now possess this wonderful Light.   



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