Bereishis: Critical Thinking

New neighbors arrived two-and-a-half months ago. Right behind us. A Russian woman with two teenage children who live there part time, and her live-in boyfriend, who obviously has a skin condition that requires him never to wear a shirt. They are not Jewish, don’t speak Hebrew (though the children do), are loud, don’t seem to have any jobs, yet are paying 5000 NIS/month in rent and own a car. They have no furniture in their living room, since they literally spend most of their time in their courtyard, which is separated from ours by a bamboo fence, and is only 4 meters from our building. Oh yeah... remember Cruella DeVille (101 Dalmatians)? Yep. That’s her. She dyes her hair white, smokes like a factory in Gary, Indiana, and has this evil and immature laugh. We couldn’t believe that she was actually a mother to children.

I won’t go into all the details (which are really fun), but since they’ve moved in, the noise pollution (especially at night, when they have something like a television outside on full volume up until 1a.m.) and smoke pollution has gone up, and we have suffered a lot from it. There’s been a cold war on since they moved in (despite my wife's introducing herself…sort of, since the woman could barely understand her), and we didn’t know how to proceed.

On Sukkos, they took it to Defcon Two. When we dared have some music in our Sukkah, 1.5 meters from their outdoor living room, they started blasting bass music for hours on end. When I asked them to turn it down and go in at 11:30pm, they 'agreed', said their final, yet immature comment, laughed, and turned it down. Finally, after consulting with some neighbors, we were able to get hold of the person renting his home to them. My next-door neighbor made a second, separate call, and thankfully, since then, they’ve toned it done, and by 11p.m. all is much quieter (you can get ticketed after 11p.m. for being too loud).

The smoke pollution is still an issue, and there is certainly something going on there which is not kosher…like their financial situation. So, we’re just davening really hard that they should simply go away. Other than that…Sukkos was great!

There’s an interesting Midrash that states that Hashem created many worlds, destroying each one, until he created this one, which received his approval (Bereishis Rabba 9:2). It’s something that is difficult to comprehend, since Hashem does not need to experiment in order to get things right. Rav Shach explains it as follows:

This midrash should be understood in the light of the Sages' teaching that Hashem “looked into the Torah and created the world." Being that, Hashem did not do this in order to “try things out," but rather to show us how to live our lives. Whenever a situation arises, whether in life or in learning, one sets out with an initial position. From that position, he needs to search out the strengths and weaknesses of such a position. Then accordingly, change the position, so the strengths are strengthened and the weaknesses are weakened. All this is in order to get to the truth of the matter. And that is what Hashem is teaching us by creating multiple worlds, and destroying each one, until he “arrived” at the right one.

A friend of mine has been going through a time of childlessness after a couple of children. Obviously it’s hard on him, but even harder on his wife. Unfortunately, his wife had a run-in with another person at the park not so long ago. This woman has a baby every year-and-a-half or so. Of course, she considers each one to be a bracha and cannot wait for the next. However, she was talking to my friend’s wife about how overwhelmed she is, how she feels that she’s neglecting them, and how she’s always yelling at her children, and has had the police called on her because she yells so much (that’s not an indicator of abuse in Israel…in fact, we had the police called on us when one of our babies was sick and crying a lot…but it still says something). She continued to go on about how hard it is, and of course my friend’s wife is thinking “Perhaps you should go on birth-control?”

After her rant, she starts asking my friend’s wife about her children and made a rather insensitive comment about how old their youngest is, shocked that she doesn’t have any more after that. Needless to say, this woman was very hurt by the callousness of the comment, coming from such a person. My friend later spoke to his rav, who I happen to know is an amazing person, and without children himself, and he said the following: “You need to judge this woman favorably, as hard as that sounds. People who make such complaints regarding their parenting skills and their children, are complaining to others of the situation that they are in, and are usually jealous of those with fewer children, as strange as that seems to be. People like this don’t even think that they need to ask a rav if they should be on birth-control, and continue to have more and more children, despite not being able to parent properly the ones that they currently have. You need to understand that she did not make this comment out of maliciousness or even a lack of communication skills (which my friend attributed the comment to). She’s simply crying out in pain and doesn’t know how come up with a solution."

Throughout our lives, we need to rethink how we think and constantly reanalyze situations. Often, this "critical thinking" can be used in interpersonal relationships when things are not going so smoothly. By examining each “path of thought,” one can arrive at the truth.

(This of course, does not apply to my neighbors. I mean, that’s a given, right?)

Have a great Shabbos!