Sunday, September 2, 2012

Blaming Ourselves

    One thing I noticed during the "shiva" (mourning) week, was the tendency of people to blame themselves, for something, at least. My husband blamed himself for the tragedy because he hadn't been praying with a minyin in the synagogue, I wondered after so many comments of "you did all you could for Ricki" if I hadn't neglected her siblings on the way, and her friends wondered why they hadn't visited more….
    Now it is all good and proper to make an accounting—a spiritual one—when things go haywire, but…. It seemed to me that something else is involved here as well. I suspect that our yetzer hara (evil inclination) is VERY inclined to make us take the blame. WHY?  Because we like to think that our lives are in our own hands.
    I remember when Ricki was born (I was age 40+ at the time), SEVERAL of my friends asked how old I was. (To the extent that I felt as if someone had hung a sign declaring "OVER FORTY!!" on my door.)  It was as if I could see the wheels turning in their minds, trying to figure out if they were "safe" or not. We try to prevent personal tragedies. And when there is a practical thing we can do, we should. (For example, taking the time to talk to your kids about "stranger danger"**)
    However, we often get so caught up in protecting ourselves, that we start looking for "cause and effect" that really has no bearing on the case at hand. That's because if we can figure out WHY something happened, we can protect ourselves and seemingly stay in charge of our destiny. And the yetzer hara LOVES this, because it deters us from viewing the real truth that the ONLY thing we can rule over is ourselves. We cannot prevent tragedies, we cannot control those around us. We are loathe to admit that in reality, G-d is the one running the show, and even being a "true believer" is no guarantee that tragedy will not strike.
    And, by the way, this realization and INTERNALIZING that G-d is the one in charge, is the crux of our avodah (spiritual work) for Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year).

** BTW, "stranger" is a poor choice here. Usually perpetrators of child abuse are people the child knows. It is imperative to teach children to be wary of adults who act strangely:
1)     Ask them to keep a secret from parents
2)     give gifts
3)     ask for help
4)     touch covered body areas

1 comment:

Batya said...

There are thinks out of our control. You know that.

It's Elul when we must do teshuva. Of course, we could have done everything differently, but there are things that only G-d controls, like life, death and the genetics causing Downs...

We do the best with what G-d gives us. I'm sure that G-d shows more mercy than we humand do.