Pirkei Avot- Also known as what I sometimes look to for guidance

My friends and family have grown accustomed to my asking for their advice/opinion on a variety of topics only to see me go ahead and do whatever it is I intended to anyway. It is not always the case, but if you tell me that I am going to get burned I may try and prove you wrong.

When I was 18 I was challenged by a friend to open a steel can of apple juice with nothing other than my hands. The rule was simple, I could not use anything that was not physically attached to me. I took the bet and won because I knew that I could.

Here is why. I am tenacious, persistent, stubborn, determined and resourceful. Not neccessarily in that order and not all of the time, but some things are clear to me and this was one of them. Each one of those steel cans is held together by seams on the sides. I knew that I could pound it with the palm of my hand repeatedly and that sooner or later the stress would cause the seams to expand and this would allow me to get my fingers in and rip the can open.

It worked as I expected and I managed to avoid shearing off a finger [18, young, dumb and stupid. As opposed to 35 where I am older, dumb and stupid ;)]. In any case I usually find that I manage to achieve my goals because I just don’t give up. I keep at it and sooner or later it happens.

It can be frustrating because we live in a world of instant gratification and I like my gratification as much as any other person maybe more. And while I am thinking of itI could be gratified daily and not complain, but that is of a more personal nature and I am not sure that this blog could or should go there. My, the impact of reality TV permeates cyberspace.

And who said I could get to the point quickly, I can meander with the best of them. There are commentaries and advice in the Jewish tradition that I can look to that assist me in daily life. Here are a couple of the pieces that I am currently exploring:

Keep far from a bad neighbor;Do not associate with the wicked;And do not despair about affliction.—Nittai of Arbel

I don’t want to overwhelm people with commentary, so I am only going to cite a section of it. But if you look at this commentary I find the following to be of particular meaning:

Do not despair… This saying has a double meaning. One, we should not despair because we do not see the wicked suffering divine punishment. Two, we should also not despair because of the afflictions of disease and disasters which befall the innocent, including ourselves and those we love.

In a time of uncertainty and as a father with young children it is reassuring to see that the problems we face today are things that were shared by parents/people for thousands of years. What it means to me is not that I need to rely upon G-d as a crutch, but that people have found ways to deal with and overcome adversity for eternity.

It means that we shouldn’t give in to despair and allow it to overwhelm our ability to cope with the challenges that life presents. Of course I’d be lying if I said that this always helps, sometimes I could care less about who suffered what. I’d like to offer some sarcastic response, but let us just leave it at this for now.

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