Tag Archives: anger

Beckoning the God of Peace

in-the-face-of-the-stormPrepare yourself with this meditation, and when you feel anger overcoming you, run through it in your mind:

Know that all that befalls you comes from a single Source, that there is nothing outside of that Oneness to be blamed for any event in the universe.

And although this person who insulted you, or hurt you, or damaged your property, is granted free choice and is held culpable for his decision to do wrong — that is his problem. That it had to happen to you — that is between you and the One Above.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Advice on Anger”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I’ve spent the past several days monitoring some disturbing and less than “Godly” attitudes on the Internet (No Judah, your not one of them). I suppose it’s obvious that hostile and critical people and organizations should express themselves in an environment as open as the World Wide Web, but it’s always disappointing when the sources of such poor behavior are those who claim the cause of Christ (though they may not call him by that title). I won’t give honor to either of the two specific sites/blogs to which I’m referring by linking to them on my blog, but suffice it to say that they both (apparently) desire to denigrate Jews and Judaism in general, and specific individuals in the Messianic Jewish movement in particular.

There’s more than a little irony happening here. First off, both of the sources I am speaking of advertise themselves as being educated and scholarly, in addition to being holy and honorable. And yet, how can what they say about themselves be true when the results of their “scholarship” and “reviews” are a widespread (relative to the scope of the Internet but perhaps not their readership) reiteration of classic hatred of Jews, a further expression Christian supersessionism, and a great outpouring of comments about individuals bordering on character assassination?

After Shabbat had ended on Saturday night, in a fit of pique, I wrote this on Facebook:

There’s so much injustice masquerading as scholarship and that reduces the history of Jewish people to a subject that’s examined under a microscope. How far do I go to challenge people who think they are defending the cause of Christ but who actually are walking in the footsteps of everyone who has authored a pogrom and constructed a holocaust?

I found myself sorely tempted to respond to the sources of my frustration via email, blog comments, and twitter, basically to (proverbially) give them a piece of my mind. Fortunately, I stopped myself. It’s hardly taking the moral high road when another can provoke you to descend to their level. On the other hand, is this blog post any better?

In all my days I have never had to look behind me before saying anything.

-Shabbos 118b

Lashon hara (gossip or slander) is not necessarily untruthful. The Torah forbids saying something derogatory about a person even if it is completely true.

One of the best guidelines to decide what you should or should not say is to ask: “Does it make a difference who might overhear it?” If it is something that you would rather someone not overhear, it is best left unsaid.

Sometimes the information need not be derogatory. A secret may not be saying anything bad about anyone, but if someone has entrusted you with confidential information, and you have this tremendous urge to share the privileged communication with someone else, you should ask yourself: “Would I reveal this if the person who trusted me with this information were present?”

Sometimes people want to boast. They may even fabricate their story to those who have no way of knowing that it may not be true. Still, they would be ashamed to boast in the presence of someone who knew that their statement was false.

Volumes have been written about what is proper speech and about what constitutes an abuse of this unique capacity to verbalize with which man was endowed. But even if one does not have time to master all of the scholarly works on the subject, a reliable rule of thumb is to ask, “Do I need to look behind me before I say it?” If the answer is yes, do not say it.

Today I shall…

…monitor my speech carefully, and not say anything that I would not wish someone to overhear.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Shevat 30”
Aish.com

Let’s look at the first two sentences of Rabbi Twerski’s commentary on “lashon hara” again:

Lashon hara (gossip or slander) is not necessarily untruthful. The Torah forbids saying something derogatory about a person even if it is completely true.

That’s very difficult for most of us to do, especially when we have free access to the Internet and the ability to create and edit websites and blogs we have created or to make comments on the blogs and discussion boards of others. The web is full of harsh criticisms aimed at others and yes, some of those criticisms are true. And yet, and this is especially focused at those folks who claim to observe the Torah of Moses whoever they may be…to publish comments regarding specific individuals for the express purpose of destroying their reputation or causing them personal and emotional harm, cannot be construed in any manner as actually serving God.

peace-of-mind1I’m not unmindful that such individuals are responding in anger, and that they even feel justified due to the belief that they are fighting against what they see as some sort of “injustice” they think was perpetrated against them or their own cause or tradition, but is such a response really the right thing to do? I know that I’m struggling with my own anger at such behavior, but in doing so and in writing this blog post, I’m walking the edge of the very abyss I believe they have already fallen into.

But what is Rabbi Freeman’s advice on anger? If anyone has insulted you or done you wrong, it is a problem that they possess. It’s only the problem of the person insulted (in this case, me) if they (I) allow the insult to affect them (me). Thus, the individuals who are behaving rather poorly on the web are only a problem to me if I let them affect me. That I’m even writing this “meditation” means I must confess that I have allowed this to happen. In that case, my conversation must not engage those who have behaved in an insulting matter, but to the degree that they have entered my life with their discordant behavior, I must take the matter to God. How I feel and how I must respond is between Him and me alone.

To apply Rabbi Twerski’s commentary on what I’ve been saying, in addition, I must monitor my own “speech,” which includes anything I post online. I’m glad I didn’t give in to temptation last Saturday, otherwise I would have failed in that area as well.

(Unfortunately, I did give in to temptation on Google+ Monday morning and I am now living with that regret. The resulting comments on my recent Return to Jerusalem blog post were actually stimulating, but the “comments storm” that occurred on my Why I Go to Church missive were troubling and disappointing for the most part..though thankfully only from a single individual.)

Where do I go from here?

We cannot think two thoughts at the same time. Consequently, when negative thoughts arise, you do not need to fight them. Make an effort to think positive thoughts, and the negative thoughts will disappear.

(see Rabbi Nachman of Breslov; Likutai Aitzos: machshovos, no.11)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift #727
“Fill Your Mind with Positive Thoughts”
Aish.com

There is a much older “midrash” on this topic in which I can also take comfort.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Not only think of what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable, but practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

candleIt is not unexpected that we in the body of faith at one time or another, will turn to God in our anguish and ask Him to quiet our minds and our lives, to shield us from the turmoil that comes from the world and from inside of ourselves. And yet, if we want the “God of peace” to reside with us, Paul says that we must choose to focus our thoughts on peace and then to practice peace.

As Rabbi Twerski might say:

Today I shall…

…strive to practice peace by embracing peace within my thoughts, so that the God of peace will be with me and guide me in His ways, and so that no other person may suffer for anything I say or do.

“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. … The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

-George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

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The Gift

Buddha was walking into the city market one day and near the city entrance an old bitter man was sitting on a box glaring at Buddha, who carried a bright smile on his face. At the sight of him this old man started cursing Buddha up and down, left right and center, telling him how pretentious he was, how much better he thought he was and how he did nothing worthy of the air he breathed in this world. But Buddha simply smiled and kept on walking to the market to get what he needed.

The next day Buddha returned to the market and once again that old man was there, this time his cursing intensified, screaming and yelling at Buddha as he walked by, cursing his mother, cursing his father and everyone else in his life.

This went on for the rest of the week and finally as the Buddha was leaving the market the man came up to him, as his curiosity had simply gotten the best of him. “Buddha, every day you come here smiling and every day I curse your name, I curse your family and everything you believe in” the old man says ” but every day you enter this city with a smile knowing that I await you with my harsh tongue, and everyday you leave through the same entrance with that same smile. I know by speaking to you now that you are not deaf, why do you keep on smiling while I do nothing but scream the worst things I can think of to your face?”

Buddha, with the same smile still on his face looks at the old man and asks “If I were to bring you a gift tomorrow morning all wrapped up in a beautiful box would you accept it?” to which the old man replies “Absolutely not, I would take nothing from the likes of you!”. “Ah ha” the Buddha replies “Well if I were to offer you this gift and you were to refuse then who would this gift belong to?”. “It would still belong to you of course” answers the old man. “And so the same goes with your anger, when I choose not to accept your gift of anger , does it not then remain your own?”

I don’t know the original source for this, (I saw it on Facebook) but a quick Google search revealed a variant of this story posted on the a raft blog. But how does a story about Buddha relate at all to a Christian?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV)

Not exactly the same lesson, but we see that we don’t have to accept anger and hostility as they are intended, but as we choose for them to be. And as I recall, I was just talking about being perfect very recently. Perfection is somehow the marriage between our experience with God and our behavior toward people. What we do and how we do it depends a great deal on what we believe, not just about God, but about others and about ourselves. It appears this is not just a Christian attitude, either.

Regardless of where a person actually is physically, he is really where his thoughts are. A person constantly has a choice to think elevated and uplifting thoughts – or negative, self-destructive thoughts. How old you feel is greatly dependent on your attitude about yourself. Elderly people can increase their vitality and vigor by considering themselves young.

We constantly talk to ourselves. We can choose to be our own best friend by telling ourselves positive thoughts, or our own worst enemy by repeating negative thoughts.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #616”
Aish.com

I didn’t think I was going to write an “extra meditation” today, but some of the angry responses in the comments section of one of Gene Shlomovich’s recent blog posts made it seem necessary.

I can hardly say that I always take the moral high road in these conversations. All things being equal, I can go off half-cocked as quickly as the next guy. But I still know it’s wrong to do so, even when provoked, and that in accepting the anger of someone else, I’m making it my anger. If I choose to refuse the “gift,” then the “giver” retains their anger and hostility and I am left with whatever I receive from God.

Admittedly, this is a goal I will always strive for but probably never quite attain. Buddha was an extraordinary human being and the Messiah, of course, is the Messiah, the font of all wisdom and peace. Me? I’m just a human being, like so many others, and I’m trying to make my way through life in the world.

It is a bitter thing when supposed brothers in the Messiah contend for the sake of “being right.” To try to follow the intent of Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s Growing Each Day commentaries…

Today I shall…

…try to improve my response to other people so that I only accept and give gifts of kindness, and not of anger.

Rise

The memory of a righteous person is a blessing.

Proverbs 10:7

At a family therapy session, one family member said something totally uncalled for, provocative, and insulting to another person. The remark was extremely irritating to me, even as an observer, and I anticipated an explosive outburst of outrage from the recipient. To my great surprise, the latter remained quiet and merely gestured to indicate that he was dismissing the comment as being unworthy of a response.

After the session, I complimented the man on his self-restraint. He explained, “A friend of mine once had a very angry outburst. During his rage he suffered a stroke from which he never regained consciousness.

“I am not afraid that if I become angry I would also suffer a stroke. However, what I and everyone else remember of my friend are the last words of his life, which were full of bitterness and hostility. That is not the way I wish to be remembered. Since no person can know exactly when one’s time is up, I made up my mind never to act in such a manner, so that if what I was doing was to be my last action on earth, I would not be remembered that way.”

The Talmud tells us that when Rabbi Eliezer told his disciples that a person should do teshuvah one day before his death, they asked, “How is a person to know when one will die?” Rabbi Eliezer answered, “Precisely! Therefore one should do teshuvah every day, since tomorrow may be one’s last day.”

The verse cited above may be explained in the same way. People should behave in a way that they would wish others to remember them, for that can indeed be a blessing.

Today I shall…

behave as though this day is the one by which I shall be remembered.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Elul 10”
Aish.com

There’s more than a little anger flowing around on the Internet. Anyone with the ability to create a website or a blog potentially has access to a vast audience (though in reality, how many people really read all these messages), and whatever ax they have to grind, the website owner or blog writer freely grinds. I can’t exempt myself from such company since, given a good enough reason, I can go off half-cocked, just like the next guy.

But as we can see from the story told by Rabbi Twerski, if we allow hurt and anger to rule our lives, hostile words may be the last thing anyone remembers about us. Is that the sort of legacy you want to leave behind?

Many years ago, a psychologist friend of mine told me that anger is a “secondary emotion.” People don’t feel anger without some other emotion happening first. Usually it’s some sort of hurt or anxiety, like when you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer. First you feel pain, then you get mad at the hammer.

But there’s another kind of pain that people can suffer from, often for years or even decades. It’s the pain of unresolved fear or anxiety or loss. When we see a person fly off into a rage, all we are aware of is the rage, the unpleasantness of hearing such angry words and seeing someone screaming red-faced at us. We typically aren’t able to see behind the face at the sad, lost, and frightened person who is hiding beneath the anger and hostility.

Believe me, that “rager” isn’t half as angry at you or me as he or she is at themselves.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said this?

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22:39-40 (ESV)

Why love your neighbor as yourself? What if you don’t even like yourself? What if you detest and loathe the person you are? How could those feelings in any way translate into loving another person and how in the world could Jesus make “love” a command? Emotionally, some people are just barely able to get by from day-to-day. Love would be an enormous stretch for them.

Right now, feel a greater sense of self-respect and respect for others. This will be reflected in how you speak and how you act. Repeat the words “self-respect and respect for others.”

If you had a greater amount of self-respect, what is one special thing you would do differently today?

What can you do today that would be an expression of greater respect for others?

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Today’s Daily Lift #560”
Aish.com

AbyssLook at what Rabbi Pliskin is saying. He’s associating self-respect with respect for other people. I’ve said in the past that Jesus directly connects the commandment to love God with the mitzvot of loving your neighbor. You cannot say you love your neighbor unless you love God and you cannot truly love God if you do not love your neighbor. But to love your neighbor; to respect him or her, you must also love and respect yourself.

No, I’m not suggesting leaping into the depths of narcissism, but as I’ve said in the past, depression robs us of the purpose, the meaning, the joy that God has created for all of our lives. It is the thief that takes from us who we really are.

Depression is not a sin, but it can take you to places lower than any sin.

-Chassidic saying

When you’re sitting at the bottom of the abyss, buried up to your neck in darkness and held in place by the heaviness of your chains, it can be extremely difficult to imagine any other type of life. And yet God did not create you to live in darkness and to exist in the shadows. While there are circumstances that can be difficult or even impossible to overcome physically; slavery, imprisonment, chronic brutality by a spouse or parent, God has always intended more for us.

Even when the physical or emotional torture and abuse has passed and we are free from those chains, often times, we continue to forge bonds of our own and then place ourselves in their power. Unfortunately, the darkness and chains that some people live in are invisible to the rest of us. All we see is the anger, the outbursts, the bullying, and the ugly way we are being treated by this person. We never see how terribly they are treating themselves.

If only there were a way out of the abyss; a way to rise up and climb into the light.

Higher consciousness is more than a state of mind.

It is a way of eating, of sleeping, of loving, of speaking, of doing business—it is apparent in all your ways.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Higher Mind”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I know the climb seems insurmountable. I know you don’t even want to admit you are at the bottom of your well. It’s never too late. Not as long as you don’t give up hope. Not as long as you can still look up and see the light.

Look at the light. Begin your climb. Rise.

 

Wisdom and Doubt

When someone is angry at you, organize wisely what you wish to say. Begin speaking in a manner that is likely to have a calming effect. For example, begin by admitting your own mistakes. When you start off in an appeasing manner, the person will pay more attention to your words, and this will prevent him from causing you harm or loss.

We find an example when Abigail successfully calmed down King David, who was furious at her husband (see Shmuel 1, 25:25). She began by admitting that she herself had made an error. Only then did she present her arguments to King David. When you concede that you are wrong, others calm down.

When someone is angry at you, and you start out by either blaming him or denying it, you will usually increase the person’s anger. If you want someone’s anger to escalate, the best way to do this is to either say: “It’s your fault, not mine.”

It takes courage to admit your own mistakes. Even if you are only responsible in a small way, it is still best to start off by saying something like, “Yes, I could (or should) have done differently. I’m sorry for any pain or inconvenience I have caused you.”

This will put the other person in a calmer state, and he will then be much more likely to listen to what you have to say in your own defense.

-see Ralbag – Shaar hapiyus, no.1;
Rabbi Pliskin – Consulting the Wise, pp.58-9
quoted from Aish.com

Just a few days ago I quoted from another Aish.com missive that said:

Only when a person has peace of mind can he really feel love for humanity. Lack of peace of mind leads to animosity towards others. Peace of mind leads to love.

The reality of the situation is that if we wait until we’ve achieved perfect peace of mind before we start interacting with other people, we’ll never interact with other people. Since that’s impossible for most of us, we’ll need another strategy.

What if you’re wrong? Ever thought about that? I think about it all the time, but then again, that’s just me. Maybe I’m insecure or something.

Or something.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell
British philosopher, logician, and mathematician

I hope that means that I’m on the path to wisdom, but I’d hate to delude myself or elevate myself beyond my true position. But I think it was Socrates who said, “the beginning of wisdom is the discovery of one’s own ignorance,” so I suppose I’m in good company whenever I answer a question with the statement, “I don’t know.”

That’s not the same as giving an answer and then discovering that you’re wrong, but it’s related. In the world of the Internet, everybody seems to feel like they must have the “right” answer to all questions and debates all of the time. In that sense, I must be some sort of anomaly for having more questions than answers.

But back to the topic at hand. What if you’re wrong?

I’ve already been wrong in public including in the blogosphere, so it doesn’t bother me so much anymore, but I get the impression that it just terrifies others who blog, comment, or otherwise express their opinion online. Some people can’t admit it. Some people would feel like a failure to admit they made a mistake.

I suspect that it’s closer to the truth to say that people already feel like failures or carry around a great burden of hurt and pain when they find themselves in a position where they can’t back down, they won’t recant, and they refuse to admit that they could have made a mistake and overstated their position.

That’s horrible.

That means you are totally locked out of being able to enter into a conversation with someone you’ve hurt or offended and to, as Abigail did, calm down that person and then try to make amends. It also means that even if the other person were wrong as well in some way, you’ll never get to the point in the discussion where they’ll feel free to hear your gentle criticisms. That’s because you’ll still be too busy defending your own “rightness” and challenging the other person’s opinion.

More’s the pity.

You don’t have to possess peace of mind, and you don’t have to even feel compassionate love for humanity to begin to fix this. You do however, need to be able to make claim to just a small bit of wisdom and humility. The Proverbs we find in the Bible are replete with examples of those who disdained wisdom in favor of their own self-directed council.

Those people, no matter how certain of themselves they may seem, are very often completely insecure and uncertain and indeed, not asserting knowledge and facts, but desperately defending an increasingly disintegrating ego. The other day, I called such a person a nudnik. Today, I’m saying that like any hurt and injured human being, they should be pitied and if possible, they should be helped.

Was it something I said or something I did
Did my words not come out right
Though I tried not to hurt you
Though I tried
But I guess that’s why they say

Every rose has it’s thorn
Just like every night has it’s dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has it’s thorn

-lyrics by Bret Michaels
from the ballad Every Rose Has It’s Thorn (1988)
Recorded by Poison

But even if we are injured, hurting, humiliated, and emotionally bleeding, we can’t always wait for all that to stop before trying to right what is wrong. If we still possess a modicum of mercy, grace, and justice within us and we don’t want to live long enough to see ourselves become the villain, then we have to take who we are and do the best we can with ourselves. No one enters life a perfect person and no one leaves life perfect either. Sure, during whatever lifetime we are granted, we are given many opportunities to learn, to become wise, and to elevate ourselves spiritually, but in the end, we are who we are. We take all of that and do our best with it and with us.

If it is permissible, we must use it for good. If it can be elevated, we cannot leave it behind.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Leave Nothing Behind”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

If you can be a better person today than you were yesterday, then you must make every effort to be that better person. Better to admit that you can be wrong and risk looking foolish than to always demand that you’re right and prove you really are unwise.

Just ask yourself, “what does God want me to do in order to honor Him and to avoid disgracing myself?”

Through love, all pain will turn to medicine. –Rumi

Please don’t destroy yourself. Please don’t try to destroy others because you feel they hurt or maligned you. God is the author of love and life, not hate and destruction.

Save Them From Falling

You shall make a fence to your roof … so that the falling person should not fall therefrom.

Deuteronomy 22:8

Rashi notes the unusual term “the falling person should not fall” and explains that even though the person who may be injured may be “a falling person,” i.e. someone who merited punishment for wrongs he or she had committed, nevertheless, you should not be the vehicle for punishment.

Some people act in a hostile manner toward a certain person, even going so far as to condemn him and cause him harm. They may justify their behavior by saying, “Why, that no good … do you know what he did? He did this and that, and so he deserves to be tarred and feathered.”

The Talmud states that God uses good people to deliver rewards, but when punishment is warranted, He chooses people who themselves deserve punishment. Hence, it is not good to be a punitive instrument. The Torah cautions us not to intervene in Divine judgment. God’s system is adequate. We should take reasonable actions to protect our interests so that they are not harmed by others, but we should not take upon ourselves to mete out punishment.

The principle of fencing in a roof applies to every situation where someone else might come to harm as a result of something we did or did not do. Being a responsible person requires using reason. As the Talmud says, “A wise person is one who can foresee the future” (Tamid 32a). We don’t necessarily need prophetic foresight, just the ability to calculate what might result from our actions.

Today I shall…

be cautious to behave in such a manner that no one can come to harm as a result of my actions.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day,” Av 13
Aish.com

I’m sure every Christian would recognize the following where Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” –Romans 12:19 (ESV)

Of course, actually fulfilling that directive is easier said than done, particularly when we read stories such as, Sharp Decline in Terror Attacks After Bin Laden Death. I don’t think there are too many people who didn’t think Bin Laden deserved what he got, but should we be cheerful and feel justified that such an evil man was assassinated?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I oppose the death of such a man, but as we are supposed to understand, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

Of course, that’s an extreme example and the vast majority of us aren’t in a position to participate in the assassination of a notorious mass murderer at any point in our lives. Frankly, I’m glad. Who’d want that kind of responsibility and the mental, emotional, and spiritual consequences that would result?

However, we are all in a position to “condemn and cause harm” to plenty of other people all of the time. No, not by causing actual death, but something like it.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. –Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

It seems that we can be guilty of “murder” every time we lose our temper at someone and condemn them in our thoughts, our feelings, and with our words. Even if the person “deserved it,” who made you and me an instrument of punishment? And if you want to believe Rashi’s midrash (and after all, it’s just a midrash), does that mean by making us such an instrument, God is saying that we too are deserving of punishment?

That’s a frightening thought. Even if God isn’t putting us in that position, by being critical, judgmental, and angry, we are putting ourselves in the “hot seat,” so to speak. Do we really want to sit there?

But what else can we do? After all, we are only human and “the flesh is weak.”

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. –Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)

I recently saw some sort of Internet meme on Facebook that said when a religious person hurts another human being, they spend the time apologizing to God that an atheist would spend apologizing to the person they hurt. Jesus shows us this meme is (or should be) exactly wrong. We have a responsibility when we’ve misjudged another (or even apparently when we’ve correctly but harshly judged another) of setting aside our prayers to God and to apologize to the person first. Then we can approach God in prayer with an open heart.

But according to Rabbi Twerski’s understanding of the Talmud, it goes beyond simply apologizing after we’ve been critical. We must anticipate our behavior and take steps not to harm other people at all. This is like building the fence on the roof so the person cannot fall in the first place. We must consider what we could do or fail to do that could hurt another human being and then make sure we avoid those behaviors. We must be aware of other people and how they feel, be aware of ourselves, and most of all, be aware of God.

Or as Rabbi Twerski put it:

Today I shall…

be cautious to behave in such a manner that no one can come to harm as a result of my actions.

Inner lightWe must reflect the light of God and be honest and worthy disciples of our Master, for in reflecting the light of our Master, we too become a light of the world.

A mirror is simple. It has no shape or image of its own. If it did, it would not be able to reflect the image of other things. Simplicity is what makes a mirror a mirror.

Beyond our world is an Infinite Light, the origin of all that is. Relative to our world it is a nothingness. So simple and void, we feel as though we have no source at all. So formless, it is able to reflect whatever form we choose to show it from below. Try it. Look up and celebrate. The heavens will celebrate along with you.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Mirror”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Do we reflect God or does God reflect us…or is it both?

If we are true disciples, we reflect the goodness and Holiness of who God is. If we are poor and malfunctioning disciples, the evil we do reflects on God’s reputation and the name of the Master of dragged through the mud, or worse.

Your choice.