For all our technological innovations and uncanny advancements, there is still one thing we have absolutely no control over: the weather. Last week a polar vortex – whatever that is – enveloped much of the United States, bringing dangerously frigid temperatures. Although New York’s weather wasn’t as severe as that of the Midwest, where temperatures dipped to unprecedented lows, 20-30 degrees below zero, it was still bone-chillingly cold. The front page of last week’s Hamodia had a picture of a thermometer with the mercury reading below zero with the caption, “Global Warming?”
And now just a few days later, we enjoyed a couple of days of bright sixty-degree sunshine – unusually warm for early February. Go figure.
Last week, on Friday morning, when the temperatures were in the single digits and wind chills were still well below zero, I pulled into a gas station in New Jersey. (The State of New Jersey doesn’t trust its citizens to fill up their own gas, so there is no self-service anywhere in the state.) The attendant, dressed in several layers, was jumping around and practically dancing as he approached my car. When I rolled down my window, I heard blaring music. The attendant gaily asked me how he could help me. When I asked him to fill up the tank, he spun around and jumped up and down as he inserted the nozzle into the filler neck.
As I drove away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dancing gas attendant. It was a freezing morning, a perfect day for someone who works outside to be grumpy and miserable. Yet he was chipper and energetic. Why? Because instead of grumbling about the reality, he embraced it.
How often do we try to live life on our terms, even when the reality of the situation is clearly otherwise?
Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was once walking with a group of his chasidim. At one point, he asked his assemblage, “Do you know what I would do if I was G-d?” The group stopped walking and it was dead silent. Everyone leaned in with wide eyes to hear the great secret that the Rebbe would reveal. After a long moment, the Rebbe smiled and announced, “If I were G-d, I would… do exactly what He’s doing!”
The Rebbe’s insight is very compelling. If he were G-d, he would understand how everything happening was exactly as it needed to be. The reason we struggle so much is because we are not privy to the Divine knowledge and therefore cannot understand how everything is for the best and is exactly as it should be.
In his typical humorous fashion, Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky once quipped: “I don’t want to be G-d; I don’t like the hours!”
We want things to go our way and to be comprehensible and logical to our finite minds. But the reality is more often not that way.
One of the most important keys to living a life of inner peace is to be able to have acceptance. That in no way precludes the need for one to do all he can – an adequate hishtadlus. But once one has done so, once he has done his research, invested all the energy he could, and has davened (and davened again), he can have peace of mind and rest assured that G-d knows exactly what He’s doing, and things are as they should be.
This is by no means an easy level to achieve. But those who seem to live with serenity are those who accept life on its terms, for good or for better. They aren’t frustrated by their futile attempts to force things to be how they feel it should be. They know that G-d loves them and only wants the best for them, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
When I grow up, that’s what I want to be!
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at email@example.com. Looking for “instant inspiration” on the parshah in under minutes? Follow him on Torahanytime.com.