(As an aside, every time I stick up the character traits from the ‘Erev Rav’ I try to check where I’m holding on it all myself, and ‘vengeance and spite’ have been at the very top of my list, recently.)
But God has been doing His best to help me overcome these issues the last few days. For example, one of my correspondents sent me a very nice email last week on a completely different subject than my crazy relatives, but which ended with their own observation that whatever happens in our life, we have to see that God is behind it, and He’s just using people as a mirror.
As I was busy trying to avoid that idea, I went to see my lady who helps me with a lot of my psychosomatic aches and pains. Mostly, I can figure out the messages my illnesses are giving me myself in hitbodedut, but occasionally they are too much in my blind spot for me to see them myself, and that’s where this lady comes in. She’s very connected, she’s very Israeli, and she doesn’t pull her punches about what I need to change or fix.
I love that about her! But it’s not always easy to hear it.
Since all the poisonous email stuff, I was having some sort of weird chest pain going on, and I knew it was related (pardon the pun). This lady told me straight: “God is using this situation to give you a message. It’s going to be very hard work to hear it, because it involves breaking your ego, and that’s never easy. If you’re ready to do the work, come back next week.”
I did some hitbodedut on it all, and here’s what came up: My poison penners ARE from God, and ARE sending me and my husband a message, but it’s not directly connected to what they think our problems are (because as I mentioned already, they are certifiably crazy).
Once I wrapped my head around the idea that God is even behind the nasty emails that crazy people send, things really started to move.
I’ve learnt that the thing that most upsets you, that most grabs your attention, that most annoys you or troubles you, that’s the place to start, when trying to work out the messages God is sending each and every one of us via other people.
So I went through all the emails me and my husband received last week, and I carefully underlined the bits that really hit a nerve. By the end of it, I had a list of about 4-5 statements that really, really bothered me, and then I asked God to show me how they were connected to my real, actual life, and not all the lies being told by the crazies.
Dear reader, we came up with some really interesting messages! Like for example, it bothered me tremendously that this person called me and my husband parasites and scroungers, because we really, really aren’t. We give charity generously, we don’t ask other people for help, we try to rely on Hashem and not people in every way possible.
So I was completely offended by this statement, and I also couldn’t understand how it could be a message to me about anything. But after pondering it, I realized that me and my husband ARE still scrounging to make a decent living, and it’s something that’s upsetting both of us.
Once we got that it WAS an accurate description of something in our life that needed fixing, we could move on to the next stage of decoding the message: How do we fix our chronic lack of parnassa, at its spiritual root?
My husband is currently working on finding the answer to that, and I’ll keep you posted.
This week I went back to my lady, and I got some more insights: She explained that spite is the one thing GUARANTEED to kill a person, physically. All the hate and rage that underpin spite does tremendous damage to a person’s health.
As I’ve been feeling pretty rotten again this week, she didn’t need to do a lot to convince me she was right. But how to get rid of it?
That’s where God came in again. I had a couple of meaningful dreams, I went to visit the grave of Rav Yehuda Zev Leibowitz in Bnei Brak, I did a couple of hours of really useful hitbodedut, or talking to God, and voila, a few days’ later I’d got to a place where I was willing to let go of my hate and spite, because I finally understood that it was a defense mechanism that I felt I needed to keep these crazy people away from me and my family.
When I was talking to God about it all, I suddenly got that God is going to protect me from the crazies in my life, if I trust Him to do that, which means that my negative emotions are actually redundant. All my spite and hate is doing is making me sick, and it’s God who’s going to protect me anyway - so why kill myself in the meantime?!
Dealing with negative character traits is such hard work. But one thing keeps me going: I want to be a lover, not a hater. I want to get to the end of my 120 years knowing that whatever disgusting traits I came down to the world with, I did my very best to acknowledge them and fix them, with God’s help.
And if I manage to do that, ironically, my crazy relatives are going to get a big amount of the credit for it.