Though ordinarily I think myself to be a calm and accepting person – personality traits that I feel imperative to be part of a rabbi’s makeup – I am easily internally frustrated. I just spent a restful and peaceful and most enjoyable Shabat at home with my wife. I felt perfectly well, thank God, but I was unable to walk to my synagogue due to the great snowstorm that visited Jerusalem over the past few days.
Discretion was the better part of valor and I did not wish to venture out to the uphill and return downhill trek to the synagogue with all of the snow and ice underfoot. My snow-walking equipment – boots and all – are safely stored in New York. I was therefore completely unprepared to undertake the adventure of climbing and descending Jerusalem’s snow packed and icy streets.
To further complicate the situation, a very large tree branch fell from the weight of the snow directly in front of the front gate to our house. Thus, under even the best of circumstances, getting out of my house would have been somewhat of an obstacle course. And at my current position in life I am always looking for smooth sailing and obstacle free paths.
So therefore the great Rabbi Wein stayed at home, a prisoner of elements over which he had no control whatsoever. This engendered within me a nagging feeling of internal frustration. It was aimless frustration, for usually we are frustrated at someone but here I could not be frustrated at anyone in particular. And objectless frustration is the worst type of frustration to suffer.
We are all aware of the constant daily frustrations in life that we endure. The lines at the post office and the banks are always long and slow moving. Dealing with any governmental agency in any country in the world is never a pleasant or simple matter and Israel happily is part of the family of nations in this respect. Yet these frustrations are minor and expected for our modern world is loaded with frustrations. Mobile phones that constantly drop calls, computers that stubbornly refuse to obey commands, automobiles that refuse to function when one most needs them to, schools that don’t always understand our children’s needs and personalities - these are only a few of the omnipresent frustrations that we moderns face daily. But all of these frustrations have an object upon which we may vent our blame and wrath.
But who can be blamed for a foot of snow in a country that has basically a desert climate? So we attribute it to climate change and global warming, etc. but those are weak explanations of freak phenomena and being frustrated with the weather forecaster is comparable to shooting the messenger and not dealing with the message.
We can only say that our frustration at the weather is a product of our realization of how puny we really are in the face of nature and Heaven. We should therefore be overcome with a feeling of humility rather than that of futile frustration.
So upon further reflection I contentedly stored away in my mind the glorious sermon that I was going to deliver in the synagogue this past Shabat. I regret not being able to teach the Torah classes in the synagogue but I am comforted by the fact that I was able to devote a few hours of rather intensive study of a book of interesting insights in Talmudic subjects authored by a great Torah scholar. And I relaxed on Shabat in a manner that I am not usually able to.
And though I still had this gnawing feeling of vague frustration at being somewhere that my routine told me I was not supposed to be, I was somehow able to sublimate it for most of the holy day. But the frustration returned with a vengeance after the conclusion of the Shabat. Hence this essay, which is meant to dissipate that frustration.
Confession is good for the soul and writing has always been a catharsis for me. So, in a strange way, writing about my frustration serves to alleviate that very feeling of frustration. I am looking forward to the snow finally melting, the fallen limbs of trees being removed and a return to the normal and usual frustrations of life in a few days.
I hope that this essay will serve to calm your nerves as well whatever types of frustrations you are currently suffering from. The rabbis taught us that troubles that befall all of us in equal portion are the themselves a partial comfort to the human condition. So may it be with our frustrations.