I’ve been talking to someone who likes having control of her life and environment. She has lists and missions and life goals. She thinks she can control it all.
Then the earth shakes. The wind blows. A hotel goes sailing away in a swollen water stream. How much control do we think we have? Do we even control our breaths? C’mon, think about it – are you even conscious that you must take the next breath? Are you in control of the next beat of your heart? Do you keep your body temperature steady through goal planning?
Fragile beings, in the final analysis, is what we are, with a master Operator who keeps our world functioning and keeps us alive. We have no control. We don’t control what happens in the world – we only control our reactions to what happens.
Yissacher Dov Kellner, Z”L, of Williamsburg who passed away last week understood this well. For his bar mitzvah, he got the gift of Auschwitz where he lost most of his siblings, his parents and his youth. He never complained about his past. In fact, every pore in his being exuded Simcha, happiness and contentment. All his life he declared how happy he was that he was able to pass the test, that he didn’t buckle from the pain, that he didn’t lose out on a relationship with G-d because of pressure. Right after the Holocaust, from the hells of Auschwitz he set out to find a Yeshiva. He built and thrived all his life. And then a few months ago he was diagnosed with fast-moving, incurable cancer. He washed his hands right before losing consciousness for the final time, and said, “G-d I thank You.” He knew that G-d was in control of what happens – and what remains in man’s domain and control was how he reacts to what G-d sends.
We can’t stop the earth from shaking when Hashem attempts to wake us up from our stupors. We can’t stand up to the heavy winds He tells to blow out to get our attention. We cannot even absorb all the many waters rising and swirling around us. We can, though, choose what we do with any given situation – are we bitter, are we unaware, are we rebellious or catatonic? Or do we respond with grace, dignity, faith and meaning?