Rabbi Avrohom Braun tells this story about an elderly couple living in a small farmhouse. One day, a younger neighbor stops by for a cup of tea and to check on her elderly friend. She watched in shock as the husband came in and walked across the obviously newly washed kitchen floor and left muddy prints in his wake.
“Wh . . . What!” the young lady sputtered. “How can you just sit there calmly when those boots left such a mess on the floor?”
The elderly woman smiled and said, “Yes, those boots did leave a mess on the floor. But they also brought my husband home.”
She was probably thinking, ‘I told him a million times not to walk across the kitchen with his muddy boots. Now I will have to get down on my eighty year old hands and knees to clean it up again, and I will not be happy at that moment. However, most of my friends are too sick to clean the floor, and they no longer have their husbands. So I will choose this moment to thank Hashem for my husband, and for feet that make the floor dirty, and also for my health and the strength that allows me to clean up and be self sufficient.’
The Nodeh B’yehudah pointed out that the same Hebrew letters that make up the word B’Simcha, the state of happiness, also make up the Hebrew word machshovoh – thought. More recently an unknown author wrote, “The city of happiness is located in the state of mind.”
This concept evolved to a phenomenon and technique called “reframing.” You could look at a situation one way. The same situation seen from a different perspective could mean the difference between being frustrated, upset, and unhappy, or happy and serene.
Ten year old Moishele was learning with his father in the living room after a Shabbos meal while his mother finished cleaning the table, and six year old Sara ‘helped’.
Moments later, the sound of a plate shattering on the floor broke the silence. Immediately Moishele looked at his father and said “Mommy dropped it.”
“How do you know?” his amused father asked.
“Mommy didn’t yell,” was the simple answer.
This child knew instinctively, that if his mother dropped the plate, it would be framed as an ‘unavoidable accident’. However, if the child had dropped it, it would be reframed as carelessness, and would have elicited a speech from the mother.
The child also knew, instinctively, that had his sister dropped the plate, his mother unfortunately, would not have reframed the situation, asking herself, ‘If it was me would I be yelling?’
Those who attended the dinner of Yeshiva Gedola of Bridgeport received a CD containing a speech from my father, HaRav Yisroel Saperstein Shlit”a, on this topic, as part of his “Catching Happiness” series. He gives the following suggestion for people stuck in traffic.
Imagine you are taking a long walk, and are far from the destination. You are getting extremely tired and your feet hurt. You start to wish you had a bench. All of the sudden, a bench appears and you sit down.
All is great, until you start to feel uncomfortable on the wood bench. All of a sudden, the bench sprouts upholstery and cushions. When the heat starts to bother you, an enclosure pops up around the bench, and air conditioning turns on. When you are bored, a sound system with a Torah tape or music appears.
You now feel better, but after a while you realize you are not getting closer to your destination. All of a sudden the bench starts floating, at walking speed, towards your destination.
All your problems are solved!
That person is you sitting in traffic. You are sitting comfortably, air conditioned, (hopefully),listening to your sound system, and moving closer, albeit slowly, to your destination.
It is all how you see the situation. If your point of reference is driving 70 miles an hour, you would be disgruntled in traffic. If your point of reference is walking in the heat for twenty miles, you are living like a king sitting on an upholstered bench, inching towards your destination.
Following this technique, I conducted this following experiment. I presented a situation to parents, Rabbonim and Mechanchim, and asked, “What would you tell the parents of this child?”
A child is born. As he grows into his toddler years, he becomes aware that he is not allowed to play the same games as his peers, and is limited in his choice of friends. As he matures, he notices that his daily study takes more time than that of others his age. While they spend the afternoon playing, his is forced to spend more time on his studies. He finds that not only are there restrictions on what he eats, he also has no say in what he eats, Dinner is put before him, and he is expected to eat.
As he gets older, he is sent away from home to continue his studies. He complains bitterly, does not like the school nor the studies, is picked on constantly by bullies, yet his parents refuse to bring him home. All through his life he is constantly reminded he must act “refined” and not bring embarrassment and shame to the family.
When he returns home, it is made known to him that not only does he need approval from his parents regarding the girl he would marry, he must have their permission. Not only do they demand that she be deeply religious, it is not enough. Although a girl from some ‘sections’ of the religion would be tolerated, others would not. It goes without saying, of course, the girl must come from the ‘right family’ with the right ‘lineage.’
“So”, I say looking at my audience, “What do you think about this family?”
The answers are typical. They are turning off this son. They are overbearing. They will make a rebel out of this son. Nobody will want to be like him, they are turning off all those around them. They are creating an at-risk teen. As soon as the inevitable “Farfrumte Meshuganas” comes up, I yell “STOP!”
Looking around, I ask, “What makes you think I am talking about a Frum family?”
They look at each other. Who else would be this crazy?
“Not only am I not talking about a Frum family, the family I am referring to is not even Jewish. Not only that, but according to many worldwide polls, almost ninety percent of the world population admit to fantasizing about being part of this family, at some point in their lives.”
The son I am talking about, the son in this true story is the heir apparent to the British throne, his Royal Highness Prince Charles.
As a child, he could never play the games his friends played, and even friends were few. While other children his age were learning the standard curriculum, he was being taught from a very young age the in-depth history of his country, its laws, etc.
Prince Charles, in 1955 became the first heir apparent to attend school. His stay at Gourdonstoun, a prep school, was miserable for him. He despised the school and was a target for the bullies (I assume in this day and age that would not happen).
As he matured and was ready to get married, he had to follow the rules. He was under no circumstances to marry a Roman Catholic. Any other denomination was tolerated, but Protestant was preferred. He needed legal permission granted by his mother, the Queen, before he could marry.
The meals he eats are state dinners, prepared by a cook. Although the food must be good, it probably would be nice to choose what he wants once in a while, and also to be able to relax during the meal.
While he was single, he met Camilla Parker. However, she was a descendant of only one king, while Diana was a direct descendant of three kings.
Getting back to our issue. Why is it, that when people have these restrictions due to Frumkeit they are ‘restrictive’ ‘overboard’ and ‘hard’, while going through the same restrictions as a member of the royal family makes these restrictions understandable?
It is worth it you say, for a whole life of pomp, Kavod and a life of royalty.
Let’s see. Who is the real royalty? Prince Charles is already in his sixties. Unless the Queen steps down soon, he will be a king for less than two decades. If we count his time as prince, he will have approximately 80 years of this materialistic enjoyment.
Because of the Mitzvos we do, we will be in the Palace of Palaces. FOREVER! Is that not worth a life of restrictions and refinement? Obviously, we are entitled and even obligated to enjoy this world, but that is not even a fraction of the reward we will ultimately receive as the princes and princesses of the King of Kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu. If it is worth it for them, it has to be worth it for us. Let Charles have his white horse and his parties. I choose Olam Haba’ah.
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