Weekly Torah: Coping With Life’s Ups and Downs

A few weeks ago, I drove to a town in Israel that had some hostile and unfriendly neighbors. I waited for my schedule to open up and for an opportune time to make this long journey to pick up a package that had been left for me. Israeli soldiers heavily protect the road, providing the locals with a sense of security. Although, unfortunately, the soldiers couldn’t be everywhere.

Lending a Helping Hand

Everything went well and a short time later, the package was safely in my car. I was headed back home when out of the corner of my eye I saw a very nervous-looking teenage boy wearing an M.D.A paramedic vest standing all alone at an unguarded bus stop.

Knowing that this bus stop had a history of many tragic events, I pulled over and offered him a ride. Before I could even finish my sentence, he was already in the car, his seat belt on and the door locked.

He kept thanking me profusely. “You have done me a great favor! I just missed my bus and I am always terrified to wait at that stop when the soldiers aren’t around.”

He then told me where he was going and I told him that I just happened to be driving past that same place and I would be happy to drive him there. A look of relief crossed his face.

He told me that he is a volunteer ambulance paramedic. His job is to travel with patients in the back of the ambulance. He went on to explain that he specifically requested to volunteer in the area because of its high birth rate. “If I am going to spend so many hours traveling in an ambulance dripping with blood, I would much rather it comes from a new life being born than the alternative,” he said profoundly.

The Five Elements of Happiness

In 1960, journalist Gordon Young asked Carl Jung, a world-famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology: What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind? Jung, who was also influential in the fields of anthropology, archeology, literature, philosophy, and religion, answered with five elements:

1. Physical and good mental health.
2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, family, and friendships.
3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

A Look at the Fifth Element

 In today’s article, I would like to focus on the fifth element that Carl Jung suggested. A philosophic or religious point of view is capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

As long as you live on our planet, you are likely to run into situations in life where your journey goes to destinations unfathomable.

Take, for instance, the city that you are currently living in or the person you are in a relationship with. In your earlier years, chances are you would never have planned for this.

In life, we all know that one can spend months planning an event and suddenly have them canceled? A friend of mine told me that his affluent brother planned his only son’s Bar Mitzvah for over three years, with the fanciest hall and the best caterer.

They had every detail down to the color of the socks the waiters would be wearing.

Then Covid hit; and in a matter of weeks, the event was limited to ten people in their backyard with a zoom livestream to friends and family throughout the world.

Dealing with the Unexpected

I once asked a very sweet, elderly, and wise Rabbi by the name of Yitzchak Obermeister Z“l  if he had a trick on how to deal with unexpected and sudden changes in one’s life. He looked me in the eye and said, “When I was younger, sudden changes would bother me because I thought I was the one driving. Later in life, these sudden changes stopped bothering me when I realized that G-d is driving. And I am only a passenger.”

In the weekly torah reading for this week, the Jewish people in the desert hear that as soon as they see the cloud above rising, they should pack everything up and start traveling in the direction of the cloud until the cloud stops. Sometimes the cloud would stop after a day’s journey, sometimes after several days.

Sometimes they would camp in a certain area for a short while and sometimes for many years. In all, there were forty-two journeys in the desert before entering the Promised Land.

Chasidus teaches us that each and every Jew will go through forty-two personal stops throughout his journey in life. Each destination was preplanned with the intention to put you into positions that bring out your infinite potential.

If we work to adopt more of this type of attitude we will suddenly feel as if a tremendous burden has been lifted from us. Instead of worrying about how we will keep everything from falling apart, we will open ourselves up to be receptive to whatever situations arise that day. We recalibrate our usual behavior and avail ourselves of new opportunities to succeed, no matter what challenges are thrown at us.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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