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Monday, 23 May 2016

Stop helping Satan!

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 73

Pharaoh couldn’t sleep.  All night long, he tossed and turned, obsessing over his inexplicable dream about fat cows and skinny cows, fat sheaves and skinny sheaves.  He finally gets up and begins his royal duties, but try as he may, he just cannot shake the crazy images from his mind’s eye.   

What happened?  There were seven fat cows standing by the riverbank.  And then seven skinny cows arose and swallowed them up.  And then there were seven fat sheaves of wheat standing in the field.  But seven lean sheaves came along and swallowed them up.  What could that mean?

He calls every soothsayer in the kingdom, but nobody can explain the dreams.  He calls upon his royal orchestra to shift his thoughts away.  He calls upon his royal bard to divert his attention to tales of faraway lands.  But alas, all to no avail.  All he can think about are those wretched cows and sheaves.  He can’t sleep, he can’t eat, he can’t run the country. 

Suddenly the royal butler recalls, “Your majesty, there’s a Hebrew slave languishing in the dungeon.  He is an expert dream-interpreter.”  Joseph is summoned to the palace and before long, his successful interpretation paves the way to his prime ministerial appointment, making him the second most powerful individual in the entire nation, after the Pharaoh himself. 

Rabbi Zaira preached in Mehuza, “A convert may marry the offspring of an illicit relationship.”
The audience pelted him with their etrogs.
Said Rava, “Who would preach such material in a place with many converts?”

Subsequently, Rava preached in Mehuza, “A convert may marry a priestess.”
The audience adorned him with silk.
He then continued, “A convert may marry the offspring of an illicit relationship.”
They responded, “You ruined your initial success!”
He replied, “I performed a better for service for you.  Now if you want you could marry those people, or if you want you could marry those other people!”

When the citizens of Mehuza heard Rava’s second teaching, they became upset.  Why?  Did it negate the first teaching?  Now that they could marry people who were of tainted lineage, did it mean that they could no longer marry people of superior lineage?  Of course not!  But once they heard the bad news, any prior information in their head became overwhelmed by the new unpleasant piece of knowledge they’d acquired.

Often in life we allow the little challenges to take the spotlight in our minds, overwhelming all the positive energy.  There’s just one miniscule thing that bothers you about your spouse, but you dwell on it and think about it incessantly until it’s eating you up.   Just like Pharaoh, once you let your obsession take control, that’s all you can think about.

But what about all the positive things about your spouse?   Don’t they count for anything?  All the wonderful ways they care for you.  All their positive qualities?

Or maybe you’ve told yourself – like the citizens of Mehuza – that there’s something you can’t do.   Who cares what you can do, that doesn’t count – you’ve allowed yourself to be taken over by what you cannot do.  Suddenly it becomes all-consuming.  You get so obsessed about this hurdle you can’t overcome that you forget and neglect all the blessings and accomplishments the Almighty has bestowed upon you.  Instead of all the positivity in your life, all that’s important now is what you can’t get.

Or perhaps it was an awful experience in your past that’s weighing you down.  Some people simply don’t allow themselves to shake it off and move on.  Instead of focusing on all the good experiences in your life, all you can think about is that one unhappy occasion.   You dwell on it, hashing it and rehashing it in your head until life becomes unlivable.  Suddenly you’re cursing Heaven for giving you a terrible life, when in the big picture, it was just one mishap along the road of your pretty decent life.

That’s the power of the yetzer hara (inner satan).  He knows that if he can shift your focus away from all the positive power in your life to concentrate on the small amount of negative experience, he wins.  If he can get you to obsess over the one bad element in your psyche, then he doesn’t have to work hard at his job.  You’re doing it for him!  You’ve allowed yourself to be trapped by him.  Those thoughts occupy your head not by his doing, but because you’ve decided that you don’t want to stop thinking about them.  And then you automatically stop doing the good, positive acts in your life, without any coaxing on his part! 

It’s time to break free!  Forget the negativity!  Start focusing on all the positive energy in your life!  Start overwhelming your thoughts with all the good aspects of your relationships and your past experiences!  They will drown out the tiny amount of negative energy, if you would only allow them to!

Every person on Earth has abundantly more positive energy and experience than negative energy in their lives and minds.  If they didn’t, they would simply give up and call it quits.  May you overwhelm the microscopic amount of pain in your mind with the wealth of positivity and blessing the Almighty has bestowed upon you!  

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