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
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
(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
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:
Ask them to keep a secret from
touch covered body areas