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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Sun Factor

Daf Yomi Gittin 36

At this time of year in Edmonton, temperatures can reach minus forty.  Now, at that point, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re talking Celsius or Fahrenheit.  It’s so cold that the scales converge!  The coldest I’ve experienced was one year when it reached minus forty, but it felt like minus forty seven with the wind chill factor.  That day, we were the second coldest place in the world, after Siberia!

But honestly, who are we kidding with this wind chill factor thing?  Minus forty seven is minus forty seven!  The temperature is how it feels outside, right?  And if it feels like minus forty seven, don’t tell me it’s really only minus forty!  I mean, they don’t tell you on a beautiful day in the middle of July that it’s actually zero degrees Celsius, but with the sun factor, it’s going to feel like thirty!   Right?! 

The Rabbis taught: Those who are insulted and do not offer insult in return, who hear their scorn and do not respond, who serve out of love and are happy with affliction, concerning them the verse states, “And those who love Him are like the sun which comes out in its strength.”

What a powerful reminder of how to stay on track and focused on your mission, even when people around are trying to cut your down!  When you know that you are doing the right thing, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is saying about you.   There will always be naysayers.   The better the job you are doing, the more they will shoot their venomous arrows.  The key is to avoid becoming ensnared by their insults. 

The moment you lower yourself to their level and shoot back at them, you’ve lost your momentum.   Let them say what they will; you know that you are on the right track, the track of productive work, optimism, positivity!  They are the ones who have chosen antagonism, cynicism, pessimism, negativity.  Never allow yourself to be dragged down to their level.  As soon as you insult them back, you’ve lost your edge; you’ve become just like them fuelled by the power of the yetzer hara, the forces of the dark side.

When Korach first began his uprising against Moshe in the Wilderness, Moshe’s response was strange.  The Torah says that he fell on his face.  Why didn’t he simply stand tall?  Our Sages explain that he needed a few moments to introspect and decide whether he was indeed guilty of the egotism Korach had ascribed to him.  Once he had determined that Korach’s claims were unfounded, he then arose, stood tall and proceeded to serve Hashem and lead the Children of Israel.   He didn’t stoop to the level of Korah or Dasan and Aviram who were hurling their insults at him.  He simply got on with the job Hashem had assigned him to do.

You know what you need to do.  Any abuse you receive from the naysayers who are fighting to cut you down, just ignore it.  They will wither away.  Accept the suffering and affliction with joy, knowing that the Almighty is merely challenging your patience and endurance.   And if, G-d forbid, you ever do get momentarily dragged down into the mire, be the first to apologize to your antagonists, and then move on.  They will be left scratching their heads, wondering how you have the strength to stay positive and focused on your mission, not even holding a grudge.

You see, it’s never worth bearing a grudge.  Grudges take a person toll on you.  They weigh you down and keep you from being your best.  They’re a strategy of the yetzer hara to remove your focus.  Instead of concentrating on your important mission on earth, you’ve allowed yourself to get bogged down by negative feelings.  You need to simply let it go and get on with your mission in full force!  If the naysayers want to ruin their happiness by hanging on to ill-feeling, that’s their prerogative; you don’t need to spoil your joy just because they choose to spoil theirs! 

The Gemara compares “those who are insulted and do not offer insult in return” to “the sun which comes out in its strength.”  When you rise above the derision, why are you likened to the sun?

Ever stood outside on a hot summer’s day and listened to the way people are cursing?  Do you think the sun gets offended?  Of course not!  He knows that he provides heat and light to the world and that the service he renders is essential to life on earth.  He’s not going to get upset when foolish people curse him out, he’s completely above such lowly insults!    He is so much greater than the silly fools that are deriding his work due to none other than their nearsightedness and focus on themselves and their immediate comfort and mood.

When you ignore the naysayers and critics, you are like the sun.  You know that your mission is so much greater than they will ever appreciate as they remain mired in their mediocrity.  May you always rise above and stay focused on your vital mission! 

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