Beyond Fear & Anger; Living in Gratitude

Part Four of Contributing Editor Bob Jones’ conversation with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida.

In this forth and final part of our conversation, Rabbi Scheiner shares how simple acts of gratitude remain life's most timeless solution to fear and anger.

Bob Jones:  Each encounter is sacred.

Rabbi Scheiner:  Exactly.  It's like different facets of God's image onearth.  No one person has the totality ofGod's image we're all particles so to speak. We're all fragments of God's image on earth.  And until we unite with our fellow man, wecan't complete God's image on earth.  Andthat idea of we’re incomplete without each other…that you complete me and Icomplete you… this is the greatest gift. 

One of the challenges that I think we're facing today is wehave so much abundance.  My father has agreat quote he likes to say; “The only thing today's kids are the deprived of is deprivation.” 

Morning Blessing

We have so much abundance that we start taking everything for granted. And what our daily prayers do gives us moments to reflect and to be grateful.  And Judaism does it in the most magnificent way.  I mean we don't put a sip of water in our mouth without thanking God for the water.  We don't put a morsel of food in our mouths without thanking God for the food.  If we sit down to a meal in Judaism and we have five different food types…we make five different blessings. 

We don’t just say, ‘God, thank you for the food.  We say, ‘Thank you for the drink.  Thank you for the fruit.  Thank you.’ 

When we get sick we could have a headache, we could have a stomachache, we could have something worse (God forbid). Suddenly we appreciate our health.  You don't have to wait until you're in the hospital to realize how grateful you should be that your body is healthy. 

I was with an elderly man yesterday.  He's having shortness of breath if he walks from his couch to his kitchen he's panting, right?  But we go through our day taking millions and millions of breaths.  We never have shortness of breath and we never stop to think about it.  The list goes on and on and on. 

And so if you are blind and one day you open your eyes and they were working you would be screaming from joy in the light.  Well, every day when you open your eyes there's a blessing, "God, thank you very much for opening my eyes today because I don't take for granted that I have this amazing camera in my brain that's able to see in color." So it's a daily challenge because human nature is that we take things for granted. 

God, thank you very much for opening my eyes today because I don't take for granted that I have this amazing camera in my brain that's able to see in color.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

So instead of being angry and envious and bitter about life, and like I said, I do believe anger and fear comes from, insecurity…comes from lack of joy.  The solution is to find more joy in your life. Find things to be more grateful. Don't be envious of someone else because look how many blessings you have in your life. 

And so I think spiritual values and teachings are essential and I think what we're seeing today is just because the spiritual waters have receded and so all the filth that lies at the bottom of human nature, so to speak, is being revealed. Hatred has always been around. Obviously it's human frailty that causes that, and tribalism, and then fear of the stranger. 

Bob Jones:  I was a practicing psychologist for 45 years and I have imagined that much of our anger comes from being a stranger to our own wounds which sort of goes along with what you were saying.  We are so privileged, and abundances so abundant that we never look at our own wounds. We don't see our own woundedness, and as a result can't identify with the wounds of the other and that's a regrettable thing.  I think a lot anger comes from that along with all of the abuse and trauma. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  There's a story that comes to mind. 

It was from a great Rabbi. He once looked out the window and he saw his kids playing a game and they were saying who's taller?  So one kid stood up in a box to say I'm taller, so the other brother pushed him off the box and the Rabbi called them into his study, his two children, and he said to them, ‘Always remember, you don't make yourself taller by knocking someone else down’. Sometimes when we feel that we have to criticize others and diminish others in order to raise ourselves up, and that never is the case.  The only way to make yourself taller is actually becoming a better person.

Sometimes we're afraid of our shadow you know. 

When a horse goes down to the water to drink, it starts to kick up dust, right?  And why do horses do that?  They start stomping their feet and kicking off dust?  And the answer is because when the looks into the water it sees its own reflection, but it thinks there's another horse trying to drink its water. So it starts stomping its foot to kick away to drive away the other horse. And when he kicks up dust it muddies the water and then it no longer sees the reflection of the other horse. Then it starts to drink. 

What the horse doesn't realize is that first of all there's no one else drinking their water. 

Second of all, that God has enough water in the world for all of the horses. 

And third of all, by kicking up the dust all that they’re doing is muddying their own waters. 

It's a parable for human beings. Sometimes when we feel someone else is a threat to us and sometimes it's physical threat in business. This guy is my competition. he's going to take away my business.  Sometimes it's a spiritual threat.  This person or this religion is going to supplant mine or whatever. 

We don't realize that God has enough love and enough room for all of us and all of our beliefs and all of our relationships.  And there's no one else trying to take what's yours because everyone has their spiritual path and destiny and purpose and it's uniquely yours. Nobody could take it away from you. No one could infringe on it, encroach on it.  And when we do what we do…like kicking up dust and muddying up the waters we're just making our own water impure. 

So we should invite friendship, camaraderie, fellowship, brotherhood, love and realize that God put us all here in this world and he has enough room for all of our worship and we should find the bridges that connect us because what we have in common is obviously much greater than what divides us. 

Bob Jones:  Beautifully said.  Rabbi Moshe Scheiner. Thank you for your hard work.

Rabbi Scheiner:  My pleasure and I look forward to seeing thearticle. It's an honor getting to know you maybe one day we'll meet inperson.  God bless you, all the best.