Mar 4, 2011

But that's how I feeeeel ....

Can we get some perspective? I know that people are very possessive of their feelings - "I feel, therefore I am" - but let's get a grip!

I know this might come as a revelation to many people these days but not being the most popular child in the class, not having the nicest car on the block, having our child defy our wishes and not having someone greet us is not on a par with seeing family murdered in the Holocaust or in a terrorist attack! Shocking disclosure, I know ...

I think it's time the pendulum swung back and rather than "validate" our feelings and those of others, we pause, and judge (that "dirty" word) whether this feeling  A) is appropriate to the situation  B) is a feeling worthy of an oveid Hashem. 

To elaborate on A:

On a scale of 1-10, if having one's family murdered in the Holocaust is a 10, how do you rate what just happened to you?

to elaborate on B:

Sefarim talk about good middos: being patient, not standing on one's honor, having a "good eye," having bitachon, simcha.  Where does my feeling of being slighted, ignored, jealous, resentful fit in with the good middos we are working to acquire?

I think it's time to hear lectures and read articles telling us to dismiss unworthy and otherwise negative feelings, rather than entertain and focus on them.

And it's time that parents and teachers let children know that feelings are useful, up to a point.  Feeling guilty about something might be a good indication that we are doing something wrong.  Feeling insulted is probably not that useful.

I read such a sad story in which a man did not daven with a minyan in 70 years.  The story was that when he was a boy and very poor and he had yartzeit for his mother, he went to shul to say Kaddish for her, and after shacharis, an older man in shul asked him where the cake was.  When the old man saw there was none he said, "Phooee, you call that a yartzeit?"

The boy ran home, devasted and told his father he would never set foot in shul again, and he didn't.  For 70 years.

Now in a case like this, and yes, we can say that this was close to a 10 on the scale of 1-10 because the boy was shamed, wouldn't it have made all the difference if someone were to tell the boy they understand his pain but his reaction - not to step into a shul again - hurt no one but himself? That not attending shul did not punish the man who insulted him? That he could attend another shul?

Let us make the effort to step back and assess the situation rationally.  We are likely to be much happier with the results.


  1. Isn't a person made up of his personality which is made up of inborn nature and experiences? Are feelings that develop as a result of experiences and people's reactions not part of that personality? We are not all exactly alike, nor were we intended to be. Obviously, if everyone acted on every feeling, murders would increase, families would fall apart, and there would be hostility everywhere. At some point, people have to squelch their feelings but at other points, people are allowed to make choices based on feelings.

  2. I was also thinking while cooking for Shabbos,
    the Torah prohibits a person from ignoring an overloaded donkey belonging to someone that the person does not like. The Torah also allows a soldier to bring home a captive bride, provided that he makes her shave her head and sit in mourning for a month. The Torah obviously allows certain passions to be fulfilled while making us very aware that we cannot act on the basis of other feelings. We are prohibited from cheating a ger or doing anything unkind to a widow or orphan out of respect to their feelings. Men must buy gifts of clothing and jewelry before yomtov for their wives out of respect to her feelings. OTOH, if he is unable, due dire circumstances, she is supposed to forgive him and squelch her feelings and not be angry with him over it. Aaron HaKohen was beloved as a peacemaker because he apologized on behalf of people who had never really apologized to begin with; thus restoring good feelings.
    Sometimes feelings are right and wrong at the same time. What Shimon and Levi did to the town of Schem was righteous but they were also held accountable for acting on their own.
    Sara Imeinu changed history when she acted on her feelings and expelled Ishmael and his mother and Rivkah Imeinu changed Jewish destiny when she acted on her feelings and dressed Yaacov up as Esau. These were cases where dual feelings might have existed and the Imahos had to act on what the felt was right.