Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spirit of the Law: Sefiras Haomer VI

6) “During these…days, the students of Rabbi Akiva died…”

The Gemara tells us that Rabbi Akiva didn’t treat one another with the respect that they deserved. Rav Nosson explains (Likutei Halachos, Purim 6:19) that their main mistake was in their being overly punctilious with each other. Instead of acting with love and kindness, they descended into anger and pettiness.

Rav Wolbe, zt”l, writes that the main way to avoid becoming angry with another is to learn how to bear his or her idiosyncrasies, especially when one feels frustrated that the other person is not changing quickly, or perhaps at all. One should repeat to himself, “I have to tolerate them, just as they have to bear my problems and character defects. Even if I was treated improperly, I should continue to show understanding and compassion for my friend.”

The Ramak writes that this is one of the Divine attributes that we must learn to emulate. Despite the fact that all of our strength comes from Hashem at all times, we still rebel against Him often. Even so, He allows us to persist in our behavior and bears our stupidity and smallness without preventing us from sinning further by depriving us once and for all with the life-force that sustains us.

The spiritual work of sefiras ha’omer is to refrain from anger and to act instead with kindness and love toward others. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, when I see bad in them, it is only a projection and reflection of my own character defects. If I can’t tolerate my friend, it seems that it is my own defects that I am not willing to overlook! Rav Chaim Vital, zt”l, writes, “Why get angry at your friend and not at yourself for driving out your Divine soul by losing your temper!”

No comments: