Another Perspective from Cantor Reinwald
Recently, I found myself with new, chain-smoking neighbors, and I felt like my toes and my living space were getting stepped on. I, as most non-smokers, really don’t like smoke wafting in my window, especially when I’m trying to relax later at night (apologies to anyone reading who smokes, but as your cantor, I’m going to encourage you to be healthy and quit!). I let this issue bug me for about a week, and then I thought about how we allow negativity rule our lives.
And, it is historic after all. We Jews love to complain. I jest, but go back to the Torah! Remember, Moses and the people? We often do let negativity rule us, whether it is through challenging dynamics with family, annoyances in our jobs, or just dealing with the daily obstacles that come our way. And, I hate LA traffic too!
So I started to think, how can we turn negativity into something beneficial for ourselves and this world. How do we squeeze the cliched lemonade from those old lemons? This begins with us recognizing that we are in a negative situation. There is a polar opposite to our desires that is pushing at us. Negativity is not resistance to that force, though, as we may like to believe. It is actually us giving into that undesired thing that surrounds us. It could be us letting a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch. So, we must say to ourselves, I honor that I am not happy with this situation, but I am not going to let it control me. I think of so many situations in the past where if I had just stopped and made this pledge, I would have done myself so much better. I would have again found wholeness. Peace.
Once we have identified the negative situation and the negativity that we are edging toward, I think it is at that point our responsibility to now determine how we are going to create a positive result of this disturbance in our path. When we feel we have been wronged by someone, what if we turned that into an opportunity to give to others who have less? Give tzedakah. Give of our time. It is a two-in-one situation, where by our giving, we are helping others and helping ourselves to feel better at the same time. And, if it is a situation where we can enlighten someone causing a problem– can we somehow alleviate everyone of the bothersome situation while bringing the “perpetrator” to new understanding?
As I write this, I came up with a personal solution to the situation I have recently encountered which was irking me to no end. I decided that instead of gritting my teeth each time I see these neighbors smoking and shaking my head, it is rather a message to me to motivate myself to do an activity that is for my own health and embetterment. Do 10 pushups. Eat something healthy. Go for a peaceful walk or lively run. Meditate and reconnect. In turn, the negative breeds the positive and ultimately builds strength.
I think negativity is an unhealthy environment where we block our minds from realizing that WE are the ones that are choosing to keep ourselves in the muck. Instead, we have to realize our own power to choose wisely and to choose for the better.
Keyn Y’hi Ratzon.