Tuesday, 29 June 2010

17th Tamuz - A Story, A Lesson and a Tikkun

Rebbe Nachman tells the story of a Jew and  a German who were traveling together as hoboes. The time was coming up to Pesach and the Jew advised the German to pretend to be a Jew (since German and Yiddish are similar). The Jew coached him about the sedar, telling him that he would be invited to a Pesach Sedar by a caring Jewish family. He told his friend of the various stages to expect, kiddish on wine, washing the hands, relating the story of the Hagada. The only thing he forgot to tell the German was about the bitter herbs.

Pesach arrived and the German was invited to a Pesach Sedar. He was hungry and looked forward to the tasty meal his friend had described. As the Sedar progressed, he participated in each step, eagerly awaiting the food.

The first thing he was served was a piece of celery dipped in salt water. Then they recited the Hagadah and finally the matzah was served which the German was very happy about. Then he was served a piece of horseradish as the bitter herb. It was extremely bitter and the German thought this was the whole meal so he got up and left.

As he was walking on his way he said to himself "Cursed Jews! After all that ceremony, this is all they eat"

He went to the synagogue and fell asleep. Some time later, his friend arrived, happy and full he asked his friend how his evening was. The German explained what had happened. Hearing this the Jew responded "Stupid German, if you had just waited a little while longer you would have had a fine meal, just like me"

Too often in life we do not wait long enough to see something through. Our hasty actions and reactions often lead to consequences that we pay for dearly, for years to come. 

Today is the 17th of Tamuz a fast day. Usually we look at the cause for this fast being the start of the destruction of our precious Temple. However the real start goes back to when Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher) went up to Sinai to receive the Torah on our behalf. He came down on the 17th of Tamuz, saw the "Golden Calf" and broke the first set of tablets.

How could things have been different? At the time we Jews (or a certain group within / with Am Yisrael) calculated that the 40 days of Moshe going to receive the Torah was complete and since he was not yet down, they wanted another leader. They were acting like the German in the story above. Had they waited only 6 more hours, Moshe would have come down with the tablets, taught us what we needed to learn and we would all be happy. No sin of the Golden Calf, no disappointment, no Moshe getting upset with us or needing to go up again and no fast of the 17th of Tamuz.

All very well to say in retrospect, how can we apply that today? 

There are many events that take place in our life that test our patience and belief. How many times have you found had you only kept quiet, an argument would not have errupted, a friendship would not have ended. How many have been in a situation where had they only had a few moments of patience an accident would have been prevented.

Hillel the great sage was a master of being patient. He is an amazing role model but how do we get there? As the poem goes, we get there by taking one step at a time. Meaning, next time you are in a situation where you need to be patient, hold your tongue, be quiet, not act or react, instead of entering into hasty actions or speech, take a deep breath, consiously relax your body and daven to Hashem. Ask Him for help and guidance and a postive solution or outcome. If you dont know what to say to Hashem, reach for your faithful book of Tehillim and start reciting. Keep on reading the Tehillim until you feel calmer or have an idea for a solution. Even if you just manage 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, over time each of those minutes add up. Over time your system will begin to get used to stopping and waiting and praying before acting. 

We dont always hear what disaster was prevented from happening to know if we are being successful. So how about keeping a journal of how much more you are able to stay calm, speaking in a caring positive way, not reacting. If you have managed to not fight with your family, loved ones, friends for a day or week or month then begin to extend that to longer time and to with those who you dont know. Each day you have managed to go to sleep without any accidents, any arguments, any stress, acknowledge your progress and Thank G-d for protecting you. 

May this 17th of Tamuz be transformed into a day of rejoicing, preferably before the fast is over.

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