By Tonni Shmuckler
MyLife Essay Contest 2017
Have you ever been annoyed by someone really obnoxious? Far too many people deal with irritating and exasperating situations daily. In this essay, I will try to offer, G-d willing, a solution to the far-too common problem of being annoyed, otherwise known as baseless hatred. This essay is based off the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson OBM’s Maamer Isa B’Zohar, as well as Chapter 32 of the Tanya.
A Problem We All Share
Be it a sibling, a co-worker or an annoying neighbour, we all have people who get on our nerves. We simply can’t ever get along with them. It may feel like there are some individuals who can never be good enough for you and your standards.
This phenomenon of “annoying people” translates many times into sibling rivalry, “cliques” in the classroom, or outright bullying.
How can we learn to tolerate, accept, and even love those who annoy us?
The Band-aid Solution
In Proverbs 15:1, Shlomo Hamelech advises that a calm answer dissipates anger. Modern psychology recognizes this. In an article for Psychology Today, Marcia Reynolds, PsyD gives a few pointers on how to deal with annoying people. Among her recommendations, she advises to recognize how being quiet can be a sign of strength, to the point of even influencing the other person to calm down. She says that you should behave calmly, breathe, repeat a calming mantra and remember that this too shall pass.
While this is very good advice on how to deal with a potentially stressful predicament, it does not address the issue of hatred. One can be calm and still dislike his fellow inside. However, Chassidus helps us actually get to the root of the issue, and teaches us how to have compassion and learn to truly love the other person.
The Chassidus Perspective
I. In a Chassidic Discourse from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, titled Isa B’Zohar, the Rebbe explains the spiritual source of Baseless Hatred. Before the world was formed as we know it now, there was a state of Tohu, Disharmony; when each of the Ten Spheres of creation were fiercely separate and wouldn’t cooperate with one another. This state of Disharmony couldn’t sustain itself, and exploded from the intense pressure of each of the Spheres. The remnants of this world are found in our world under the guise of the ‘Seven Bad Attributes’ which is a direct cause of Blind Hatred.
Blind Hatred parallels the Spheres of Disharmony, in the fact that the person under its influence cannot tolerate anything other than his selfish interests. His dislike for someone is completely baseless; just because he can’t stand the person. All reasons for his hatred fill in later, after the fact.
II. Klipa (lit. shell, or concealment of Holiness) and the Seven Bad Attributes cause a person to become very selfish. Everything becomes about ME, MY needs and MY Desires. Even the person’s service to G-d becomes about him; “I want to feel spiritual.”
On the other hand, Holiness is not about my ego. My whole greatness is only because of my Creator. I am serving G-d and doing His Will, because that’s my privilege and obligation. It’s all about Bitul, being part of something greater than yourself.
Blind Hatred comes from self obsession, leaving no room for others. Someone who is humble is able to be easy-going, unite with others and serve G-d how He wants, not how I choose.
III. The reason for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was Blind Hatred. Although they were diligent in following the letter of the law, they were lacking compassion and love. The issue of not being able to collaborate and get along with others was rampant. A main pillar in Judaism is loving your fellow, as Hillel famously stated: “What is hateful to you do not do to your friend; this is the entire Torah, the rest is all commentary – go and learn it.” (Gemarra Shabbos 31a)
IV. In Chapter 32 of the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe, Founder of Chabad Chassidus and Author of the Tanya, describes how all Jews literally come from the same spiritual source and are truly one. We are all brothers, share the same soul, and have a natural intrinsic love towards one another. The problem comes when we forget that, and let our physical differences get in the way. The Alter Rebbe gives us a precious pointer when he states, “Compassion banishes hatred and arouses love.”
V. Every Jew is like another limb in the body of the Jewish people, and your fellow’s pain should bother you; just like you can’t concentrate properly if you have a splinter in your toe.
To add to this concept, the Previous Rebbe explained how it should be felt even more: when you are in pain, you can assess your deeds, examine and correct yourself. However, by your fellow, you cannot judge him, and must only feel sympathy and try to help him out.
So, how can we bring these concepts in Chassidus down to our life?
1. Recognize that your annoyance stems from your own self-obsession and lack of self-confidence. A truly self-confident person would not feel the need to put someone else down. It has nothing to do with the person who you feel is annoying you.
2. Think about why you’re in this world, and Who put you here and gave you all that you have. On the one hand, you’re very great because G-d decided that he wants and needs to create YOU, because you have a vital mission that only you can fulfill, and He gives you the tools and talents in order to accomplish that task.
On the other hand, it’s all from G-d and not about you, by yourself. That is the perfect combination of self confidence and humility, because you recognize that you are part of something greater than yourself.
3. Understand the importance of working with others, and how a lack of it can be potentially disastrous, G-d Forbid. It is not something ‘extra’, it is part and parcel with Jewish life. Even when you feel that you can do something on your own, and it would be easiest to work independently, try work with a team. Collaboration is key.
4. Realize that all Jews are your brothers. It’s natural for you to love them. This divide is unnatural and unholy. Be compassionate towards your brothers, and that will arouse the true love, which you already have deep within yourself.
5. Don’t judge your fellow. Try to help him out whenever possible. Whenever you start examining your friends, remember that you should really be searching within yourself for why you’re judging others.
6. Be open and humble to be able to hear constructive criticism from true friends in order to improve yourself. a) You don’t see your own faults. A true friend can help you recognize your faults. b) Speaking to your friends makes you get embarrassed and regret the misdeed more, thereby removing the actual will completely to do it ever again. c) Your friends can advise you how to fix it. A positive resolution made in a group setting is more likely kept. d) When you’re in a group, the spiritual energy in the room is much stronger and you can get to a higher level together.
So, now that you had a taste of what Chassidus has to say; what should you actually do to deal with that annoying acquaintance of yours?
In short, there are three simple steps:
1. Reflect on who you are, and why you feel that way towards the other person, using the above ideology and tools as mentioned in Chassidus.
2. Discuss with a true friend on how to be more accepting of yourself and others. Recognize your faults and strengths.
3. Decide on one positive action that you will do in order to truly feel that your fellow Jew is as important and precious to you as a limb of your body.
Using the steps of R.D.D. in conjunction with the Chassidic perspective as laid out above, you will be well on your way to achieving complete harmony with all of your family, friends and acquaintances. It will take work and effort, but the results will be well worth it. Good luck!
Isa B’Zohar Chelek Gimmel (Frierdiker Rebbe), Based off Heichaltzu (Rashab)
Chapter 32, Likkutei Amarim Tanya
About the Author
Tonni Schmukler graduated from Beis Rivka High School as valedictorian, and is currently continuing her studies at Beis Chaya Mushka Seminary. She lives in Montreal, QC.