Friday, February 1, 2013

Hi, How Are you?

A thought occurred to me while riding in one of those little, always memorable white taxis in Israel. I got in, and after the regular negotiations, asked my chauffeur how he was doing that day. "Baruch Hashem" was the bare headed, jewelry clad driver´s answer. Very impressed with his acknowledgment of G-d's presence, although otherwise not obvious, I sat back to enjoy my ride. It was then that my eyes shifted from his glow- in- the- dark head to observe the interior decorations of his car, when I noticed my driver´s name on a small plaque behind his seat. Mohammad Abdul Jarid Sachid Ben Allah.  Uh, did he just tell me he was doing "Baruch Hashem" fine today?

It was then that I came to the realization that the term "Baruch Hashem" had become part of the Dictionary Of Slang. There wasn't any deep, inspirational meaning in it- it just rolled off peoples tongues. I don't think I'm referring  only to Arabs or secular Jews. I, a Torah observant Jewess, am probably also guilty of using these words carelessly and without meaning.

The first person in History to declare "Baruch Hashem" was the hero of this weeks Parsha -its namesake, Yisro. His declaration was due to the overwhelming awareness of the greatness of his Creator, after witnessing the tremendous revelation of G-d miraculously splitting the sea. He proclaimed those words of appreciation and love with a feeling of amazement and inspiration. They emerged from deep inside his heart.

I once heard a nice analogy from Rabbi Avi Shulman, that can apply pretty accurately to our topic. [I am not quoting directly.]

Say there's a fly on your dining room table that's really annoying you, and you decide to get rid of it. What are your options of doing so?

You can either roll up a newspaper and whack it, or you can take a hard covered book and smash it, or you can invade the tool box, remove a sledgehammer, and pound it to death. As a last resort, you can take your trusty fly swatter from Walmart and swat it. In each of these cases, if you hit the fly (fat chance), you'll certainly kill it.

The difference between all four methods is not what happens to the fly, but what happens to its surroundings. With the newspaper approach, there´s a risk of breaking a crystal vase. The book will cause the glass cups to topple and shatter, the sledgehammer will scratch and then break the table. I think we all agree that the fly swatter will do the job best without causing unnecessary damage to anything else. I guess that´s why it´s called a fly swatter.

We've been brainwashed by Western culture that bigger is always better. If you could afford something, buy it. If you can't afford it, buy it `anyway.

A larger house, a louder mouth, bigger accessories, a higher paycheck… and the more 'toys' I have, the better. The truth is, though, that this philosophy is misguided. Is bigger really always better?

Yes, in a fight, if the two opponents are of equal ability, the odds are in the favor of the bigger fighter.

But how bout when it comes to an electricity bill? A pimple? A stomach? Feet? A kidney stone? Credit card debt?

No, bigger is not always better.

Often, throughout life, we'll find that less is more effective, or better for you.

For example, french fries.  Makeup.  Criticism. 

Most of the time less is better, and therefore less becomes more.

I have a friend who has nine lives. No, I don't generally befriend cats. But this human being seems to have died so many times, yet every time I see her, her pulse is beating, and she's definitely alive. How could I think she's died again and again?

Because anytime she sees something she wants, she's 'dying' for it.

She 'dies' of laughter, so I try not to ever tickle her.

Her mother was 'gonna kill her' a few times- dunno what happened with that, though.

Oh, also, one time she was 'dying of starvation', since she only ate breakfast that day.

 I lost count how many times she 'froze to death'. Once, she suffered a really unpleasant way to go. She was feeling so hot, she started 'boiling'. So I added spaghetti to her and had some lunch. Poor girl.

Sometimes we use very strong words to express a minor discomfort, thereby increasing the level of discomfort. That happens because our minds hear every word we say and they instruct our bodies to act accordingly.

If we were to express ourselves using words like unpleasant instead of terrible, or uncomfortable instead of awful, or it's annoying instead of it's driving me insane!!,  we would be able to live with more comfort and enjoyment. We actually have the power to reduce the level of the negative feeling.

We can teach our bodies how to feel and how to respond, based on the words we use.

Here in Mexico, when you visit someone in their home and compliment them on it, there´s a common response used by each host: Mi casa es tu casa. My home is your home. Whenever I hear that, I ask for my copy of the key.
When someone receives a compliment on a piece of clothing, instead of saying thank you, the response here is, ¨you can have it whenever you want¨. 100% of the time, I shock people when I say, ¨ok, can I pick it up tomorrow?¨

If you didn´t mean it, why did you say it?

A few years ago, I met someone at my central hangout- the supermarket, and after greeting her, she asked me "Hi, how are you?" Well, I was about to tell her how I was, but I would've been talking to the ketchup bottles, because, um, after I blinked once, she wasn't there anymore.

Do me a favor, please. When you ask me how I'm doing just because it's protocol, or because it habitually rolls off our tongue, it really isn't fair, because I might think you sincerely care about how I'm doing, and I might try to tell you.

 It happened once, that someone actually waited after asking me how I am, so I started telling her about my day... I must tell you, that woman stood still as a statue, her eyeballs dry and wide, and she had absolutely no idea how to respond to me. She never expected me to answer the question she had just asked me. 

How many of us go to the mall and literally fall in love with the clothing there? I loooooove this skirt!

Do u realize we´re loving inanimate objects?! We love our shoes. We love our wigs. We love our lipstick. Shouldn´t we only love beings who can love us back? Love is a powerful word that can get lost on a one way street.

Same thing goes for hatred. It's a word that should be exclusive for Nazi's and radical Islam. Hatred shouldn't be wasted on your feelings toward a certain song, or on the taste of last night's chicken, or on a friend who didn´t text you back.

More dramatic words don't do a better job. The opposite might be true. Sweeping words, and having the attitude of 'they're just words, gosh!', can cause disastrous damage, like using a sledgehammer on the glass table.

When Yisro proclaimed his heartfelt "Baruch Hashem", there was no doubt as to the level of his sincerity.

 Words have to be thought out before spoken, and used appropriately, in order to receive the best results.

 "There are two kinds of people who don't say much; those who are quiet, and those who talk a lot".

Have a beautiful shabbos.