Turning Frustration to Happiness
How a source of frustration can transform into a source of joy and comfort
Parshas Eikev 2019 by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber
At times, a child may be required to undergo a painful medical procedure and could be found screaming in pain with tears in his eyes. An outsider who is not familiar with modern medicine, could be led to think that these are cruel people inflicting pain upon an innocent boy without mercy. When in truth, it is an act of kindness that is being done out of the love the parent has for the child, for the sake of healing the child and saving him from worse harm and suffering. In this week’s Torah reading, God expresses the same concept in regard to His children, the Jewish people. As the verse says (8:16), (in reference to the challenges the Jews experienced it the desert,) “In order to afflict you, and in order to test you, for your ultimate and greater benefit.” This concept applies to us as well, and has the power to completely change our attitude in life.
Let’s imagine, you were on your way to an important meeting, when suddenly you got a (text) message that read as follows: “This is a memo to you from God. You have been acting out of line lately. You have not been treating your family with the proper respect and attention that they deserve, and you have been neglecting some other obligations of yours as well. As a result, you have been accumulating quite a bit of an account that was going to be turned over to the angels of hell to administrate punishment. However, some other angels who were created from the good deeds you have done, came to advocate for you, and begged that some suffering should befall upon you in this world instead of the worse punishment that you would later receive in the next world. I accepted their plea, and therefore, in exchange for that dreaded fate, you will be getting a flat tire in five minutes to serve as an atonement.” And then, sure enough, exactly five minutes later, you hear that “tsssss” sound coming from under your car… Ordinarily, in such a situation, you would certainly feel very frustrated, and you might start complaining, “Why did this have to happen to me now?” But if you have gotten such a memo as mentioned above, you would have a completely different attitude. While you might still feel somewhat annoyed, without a doubt you will be much calmer and feel more at peace with the situation. In fact, you might be even be so excited about this fascinating occurance that you would get busy calling everyone to tell them about what had just happened and forget to call for help…
David woke up one morning in the winter and felt unusually cold. He went to check the thermostat, and sure enough it was close to fifty degrees. He quickly realized that furnace was broken and called a repair guy. A short while later, the repair man arrived. He determined that the motor was broken, and he went back to the warehouse to retrieve a new one. Half an hour later, David received a call from the repair person, “There are no motors for your furnace anywhere in the area, and it will take three days for a new one to arrive.” David was agitated. This was one the coldest weeks of the year, he had little children at home, and did not have another place to stay for the meantime. As he was mulling over his situation, he was suddenly struck with inspiration. He said to himself as follows: “Imagine you owed someone two million dollars, and the fellow called you up one freezing day and said, “I have a vacant house, the furnace broke and I am desperate for someone to occupy it. If you go there for a few days until it’s fixed, I will erase your debt clean.” Surely, I would jump from joy at the opportunity and enjoy every moment in the cold in that house! Who knows what kind of debt God is wiping out for me through this experience?”
We don’t need to get a specialized memo from God in every situation.
God has given us the memo in this week’s Torah reading for all situations in life. It is up to us to remind ourselves of the memo, like David did, when we are confronted with inconveniences in our lives. If we learn to incorporate this attitude into our lives, our lives will be so much happier. If we keep this lesson in mind, we will spare ourselves much frustration in life when we encounter unpleasant incidents. Moreover, we can even learn to appreciate our suffering, by realizing that everything that happens to us is truly for our benefit, even though the benefit might not be apparent to us at the moment.