Often, the most mundane occurrences, even small (or major) annoyances, can trigger a moment of introspection, can bring on a time for thought on how we interact with others, on how we truly relate to Hakadosh Baruch Hu…
Granted, timing could have been better, but tight scheduling compelled me to shop mid-morning Erev Shabbat (before Rosh Hashana) for essentials I needed for the Chag. I found parking close to the discount supermarket, a minor miracle in post summer Brooklyn. I hadn’t been there since their recent renovations; surrounded by cases of merchandise and vegetable stands, I had to ask for guidance to the new entryway. The store looked bigger, but as chaotic as ever. I hope that they still plan to reorganize the space, but were just too busy getting ready for the holiday crowds to implement a more shopper friendly environment.
There were more workers than usual, mostly busy restocking shelves. The nearly empty meat department, I carted to first, was a big disappointment. Prices were definitely higher; no more family packs of chicken breasts for $3.99 per pound, and none of the usual sales I used to count on. Chaval! I bought what I needed and headed to check out. I had a case of 7oz cups, a case of baking tins and about a dozen other items.
Every aisle was packed with anxious ‘got to get home to cook’ shoppers lined with overloaded carts (May Hashem miraculously continue to provide!) all the way down to the fridge section waiting to check-out. With not nearly enough check-out stations and a poor configuration afoot, tempers were a little testy. I went to the back of the long express checkout – 12 items or less – line with my 2 cases and close to 12 items, and was assaulted with variations on a theme chorusing: “This is the ‘express’ line, you’re on the wrong line!!!!” With a smile and a promise of checking out no more than the allowed twelve items and finally got a consensus that a case, though internally many, constitutes no more than1 big item and I was graciously permitted to stay.
Every new person arriving to stand on line however, began a fresh verbal barrage on my apparently over- filled cart. One petite fire-brand of a woman arrived with two items declaring that she would not go to the back of the line, because no one was following the rules and she was justifiably going to cut the line before her turn with her two puny little items in tow. I said nothing, but the chorus certainly did, and the woman became more passionately entrenched in her position to cut the line of food carting transgressors justifying her position of entitlement with the sins of others and the general theory that when mayhem abounds counter-bedlam is sanctioned.
Meanwhile, feeling the burning heat of guilt for the three extra items, I laid them quietly to rest in an abandoned cart. I was planning to not include them at check-out, but felt the preemptive move wise under the circumstances. The diminutive, now ferocious, harridan pitched herself before the crowd demanding a supervisor, and the volley of accusations began anew. A woman in the next check-out aisle felt sorry for me, and started putting my items on the belt. I’ve had this idea floating in my head as a precursor to Rosh Hashana and the Asseret Yimey Tshuvah; how some of us have gone beyond rationalizing to ourselves and others about our behaviors and actions and have moved toward the more intransigent reasoning that resembles Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist notion of bad faith.
We have convinced ourselves so thoroughly of our own righteousness, that we not only believe the lie, but will fight to the death to protect its integrity; leaving little room for change or subsequent good action. The most difficult people I know are so clear that their positions are ‘right’ even heroic, it would take an act of G-d to move them from their prideful entrenchment.
How can we claim to worship, to honor the Bore Olam when we are so disdainful of His betzelem Elokim? How can an individual believe to be a betzelem Elokim if one doesn’t honor and respect his/her fellow humans first? Thank G-d for Rosh Hashana, for the Asseret yimey tshuvah, for Yom Kippur, and the opportunities to right the real wrongs we have done to ourselves and to others. As we face a world bent on our demise, may we conquer the sinat chinam extant within our midst, may we learn more tolerance, may we recognize our own bad faith and find ways to love and embrace Klal Yisroel blev echad. Should one resolve to and actually make this changes in one’s heart, inone’s attitudes, inone’s behavior, then next year – as the individual clinically examines the past year’s deeds, he/she will realize that – for a change – one did not have overspetd on the good will from fellow humans and that individual will truly merit a healthy portion of Hashem‘s endless bounty.
G’mar Chatima Tova!!!