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 One of the most dreaded situations motorists are forced to face is that of complete gridlock. This usually occurs when there is very heavy traffic, with the inherent frustration involved in trying to move forward, when motorists find themselves in the middle of the road with traffic blocked on their left and right. This inevitably leads to loud honking from all sides and only further frustrates the already short tempered and nervous drivers involved.

Sometimes this situation is made even worse when there are police present who are attempting to direct the traffic. Often this only complicates and confuses the situation. This past holiday of Sukkot here in Jerusalem, because we were blessed with the large influx of tourists from abroad and Israeli citizens from all over the country coming to visit the holy city and the Western Wall, perpetual and widespread gridlock was the scene on almost every one of its major streets.
We are well-aware that much of Jerusalem was never really built to easily carry major vehicular traffic. Many, if not most, of the streets are narrow and with automobiles usually parked on both sides of the street, only a narrow lane is available for only one car at a time. In addition, the temperament of many Israeli drivers is to force the issue and to attempt to cross the intersection knowing full well that one will be unable to reach the other side before the traffic light changes. What results is that oncoming traffic from the left and the right will now be blocked. Thus, the realty of ongoing gridlock has almost become a facet of the personality of many drivers of automobiles in this country.
As is true in all areas of life, there is a moral lesson to be learned here as well. In our lifetime and in our society, we are often caught in situations of gridlock. We cannot go forward nor can we retreat backwards. We are beset by matters that attack us from both sides and we cannot see any way out except to remain stuck until somehow the situation resolves itself and the ‘gridlock’ will begin to slowly evaporate.
We are all aware of these types of situations in our lifetime. We get ourselves into situations from which we cannot easily escape, about which we also realize that we cannot ‘get to the end of the intersection without blocking the road for others’ and causing consequences that we did not foresee when we began. This situation occurs in our business and professional lives as well as in family situations. The worst feeling that these ‘gridlock’ situations engender within us is the emotional trauma of helplessness.
We are aware that somehow there is no easy way out and that we are powerless to help solve the situation and end the physical and emotional stress. It is at such moments that we must draw on our spiritual reservoir in order to survive ‘gridlock’ and resume traveling on our mission-driven path in life. However, if one has almost no spiritual reservoir – either because of lack of education or spiritual training or experience – then one is in danger of being stuck in almost perpetual frustration.
Much of the contents of the holy book of Psalms deals with the anguish and frustration that the inevitable physical ‘gridlock’ causes. The greatness of the human soul is being able to rise above this seemingly insoluble situation by faith, prayer and perseverance. One of the greatest achievements in human life is the ability not to be cowed or beaten down by the problems and challenges that constantly rise to the surface and place us in situations of abject ‘gridlock.’
The Talmud advocates that the study and observance of the Torah is the antidote to many ills that afflict us. It is not meant to view the Torah as a book of magic potions, rather as instructions to view life through the prism of Torah. This will grant a person the perspective and wisdom that will help avoid being caught in ‘gridlock.’ It points out how not to enter an intersection in life when one realizes it cannot be easily traversed. It teaches us that there is benefit to watching out for the comfort and consideration of others. And, it teaches us that the real name of the game as far as life is concerned is patience.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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