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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

It's okay to vent

Daf Yomi Sanhedrin 100

After receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai and witnessing the greatest Divine revelation in history, it only took the Israelites forty days to slip back into their idolatrous habits.  Lacking the patience to wait for Moshe Rabbeinu, they proceeded to build a Golden Calf.  The Almighty turned to Moshe and declared, “Move aside and I shall destroy them.”  Following his prayers, however, Hashem acceded to Moshe and gave us a second chance.  Despite the fact that our great teacher had cast down and smashed the Tablets, G-d promised to give the Children of Israel a new set. 

The Torah concludes, “Vayenachem” – Hashem changed His mind, so to speak, about the bad He had spoken of doing to His people.  But does G-d change His mind?

“If there is worry in a man’s heart, he should quash it” (Proverbs 12:25).
Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi: One says it means he should remove it from his mind (by focusing on other matters).  And one says it means he should discuss it with other people (l’acherim).

Rashi explains that focusing on Torah removes any anxiety from a person’s mind.  Alternatively, one could talk it out, thereby receiving comfort or good advice.  Whether it means talking to a spouse, a close confidant, a therapist, or rabbi, if you need to remove a stone that is weighing heavily upon your heart, sometimes all you need to do is let it out.

In fact, while it is forbidden to listen to lashon hara (gossip) under almost all circumstances, one exception is when you sense that the talker needs to vent.  As long as you promise yourself that the divulged information will not impact your thoughts and feelings – meaning that you shouldn’t even believe the lashon hara you hear! – you can be there when people need to let off steam.

Rabbi Chaim Tyrer (Beer Maim Chaim Vayigash) suggests that the Almighty’s wrath over the Golden Calf abated after He’d ‘vented’ to Moshe!  Thus, the meaning of vayenachem is not that He changed His mind, but that ‘He was comforted,’ and therefore able to give the Israelites a second chance.  Now, of course, G-d doesn’t need to vent or receive comfort; rather Rabbi Tyrer explains, the Torah is impressing upon us the importance of getting your issues off your chest by talking them out with someone else.

According to the Alexanderer Rebbe, the meaning of the Gemara is that one should pray.  The best way to remove anxiety from your heart is to have a conversation with the Creator.  He explains that both Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi are advising a person to turn his eyes heavenward.  The first meaning is simply pray to G-d to remove the source of your worries.  The second meaning (l’acherim) is that you should pray for others’ welfare.  The Talmud teaches that ‘one who prays for his friend is answered first.’  The most effective way to have your prayers answered is to stop focusing solely on your own needs, but to think about others’ suffering, as you pour out your heart before the Holy One, blessed be He.

As soon as Hashem created the first human being, He declared, “It is not good for Adam to be alone.  Let me make him a helpmate.”  Find people you can trust and confide in.  Find mentors who can guide you through the complexities of life.  May the Almighty surround you with the right people to help relieve you of the anxieties of this challenging world!