By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
The historic tragedy of the spies in the desert which caused that entire generation to die without entering into Eretz Yisroel follows right on the heels of the scary episode where Miriam got leprosy from speaking what was considered improperly about her brother Moshe Rabbeinu. Rashi explains that the juxtaposition of these two events is to teach us that the spies were culpable because they saw what happened to Miriam when she spoke wrongly and they didn’t take the lesson. This idea – that we must learn from the mistakes and consequences of others – is the basis of what the Gemora teaches us, “Ha’roeh shoteh b’kilkula, yazir atzmo min ha-yayin – If someone sees the suspected adulterous woman die terribly (after drinking the ‘bitter waters’), he should abstain from wine.” In other words, if you see what could happen to a person, don’t let the lesson pass you by. Take affirmative action so that something should not happen to you as well.
Let me give you a practical example of how we can put this advice into practice. Many of us have heard on the news or saw in the media about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Lakewood when a young mother forgot her baby in the car and the baby passed away from the heat. (One must be careful not to judge the mother. In today’s life of intense pressure, it could sadly happen to anyone.) When we hear this story, we shouldn’t just shudder. Rather we should tell our wife or our daughter or our granddaughter that they should leave their pocketbook next to the baby for it is not likely one would leave the car without the pocketbook or cellphone. This is an example of hearing something and not letting the message pass by you, but rather taking action and improving oneself from what occurred.
Another example is when one hears that someone suddenly took ill. Our first reaction is “I can’t believe it; they do so much exercise. They are such a perfect specimen of health. How terrible that overnight they find out, lo aleinu, they have liver cancer.” When hearing something like this, we shouldn’t just sigh in sadness. Of course, we should pray for the person and give charity on their behalf, but it should also motivate us to make preventive maneuvers. The Gemora teaches us in Masechtas Shabbos, “L’olam yivakeish adam shelo yechele – A person should always pray not to get sick.” Most of us are reactionary in our prayers. We pray when we need something. When we hear about sickness, it should galvanize us to pray not to become sick.
Another example is when one hears that someone fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a pole or went down the wrong way on the freeway ramp and the funeral is the next morning. It should not suffice to say “How horrible.” Rather, we should make sure that if we go up on visiting day to see our children or grandchildren and do a 300 mile round-tripper, wait in lines shopping for our children, and eat a heavy barbeque, that we don’t get into the car until we take a power nap.
Finally, when we see children going off-the-derech and we think to ourselves “How sad, the way this girl is dressed,” or “How sorrowful that this boy is smoking on Shabbos,” we should think about it and say to ourselves “I want to take as many steps as I can that shouldn’t happen to my family. I want to make sure that I don’t compromise on their schooling for geographic or economic reasons and I want to try as hard as I can that their peers should be wholesome.” Likewise, when we see a marriage fall apart from divorce, we shouldn’t just frown and say “How awful.” It should be a sparkplug to stimulate us to pay more attention to our spouse and exert effort to learn how to learn to please and satisfy our mate.
May it be the will of Hashem that we see and hear the messages around us, bettering ourselves in their wake and in that merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
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Rabbi Weiss’s Rebbetzin, Shoshy Weiss, LCSW-R is moving her therapy practice from Monroe and Monsey to Boro Park and Staten Island. She will be in Boro Park on Mondays and Staten Island on Tuesdays. She caters to women and girls only and specializes in the treatment of anxiety, low self-esteem issues, depression, trauma, and relationship enhancement. She is a specialist in E.M.D.R. and I.F.S (Internal Family Systems) and D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). She has been practicing for over two decades. To get a slot, call or text 845.270.3699.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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