First, one must learn what it means to be a joyful servant. Start by serving the people you live with, help them, learn how to tend to their needs, even before they can express them. . . . Each day is filled with a myriad of opportunities for secret observance, and each one of them is an opportunity for humility, an opportunity to be a joyful servant.
Every word you overhear, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, is in fact spoken for your ears alone.
–baal shem tov
My wife, Cherie, and I were to talk on Monday afternoon about my desire to be more structured about my private Jewish studies, in preparation for eventually going back to school to get an advanced degree in some form of Jewish studies. All of Monday morning I thought about how and what to say to try to finally get her to understand where my head and heart were. I knew I wouldn’t get her to hear me if I came from a place of anger, I needed to come from a place of compassion, and I remembered a concept discussed by Lawrence Kushner that I thought might help me explain what I wanted her to hear. Because all of my books were at home, I began searching the internet for it.
Instead, I ran across an interview with Kushner entitled: “Being a Joyful Servant.” And as I skimmed the article, about how to grow in humility so that one might be more likely to sense the wonder of being one with G-d, I read this text:
And THE TRUTH hit me like a ton of bricks —- nearly a year ago, a rabbi suggested, because my oldest son was struggling emotionally and behaviorally, that I quit spending so much time volunteering and, instead, go home and take care of my family. And I did that. I quit volunteering and I went home.
But I didn’t go joyfully. I didn’t serve my family like it was a mission from G-d. I went home bitter and resentful, because they had interrupted my ability to do what I had decided was “G-d’s work” for me at the synagogue.
The tasks that I completed at the synagogue … they were work that G-d needed done … but it wasn’t the work that G-d needed me to be doing.
Over the last year, I’ve come to understand how helping Zachy is G-d’s work for me, because he needs me to help him find balance … just like I need to learn to find balance for myself …
And I’ve come to understand how teaching Evan to protect, but still cultivate and live from, his sweet, happy soul is an assignment for me from G-d …
But I never stopped and stepped back from my own resentment about needing to be at home for long enough to look at Cherie as I should have. I tried, but I was too full of bitterness and fear and anger to be able to fully appreciate her. I didn’t see her as my mission from G-d … I didn’t serve her joyfully, with respect and humility …
Words from Lawrence Kushner on a random web-site, that I found when I was searching for a different topic altogether … were, nevertheless, Words meant for my ears alone on Monday, September 24, 2012.
Time for me to atone to my wife, and then try again . . .