Let it Go!October 31, 2013 - 5:00 am
“He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.”—Genesis 26:14–15
The Torah portion for this week, Toldot, which means “offspring,” is from Genesis 25:19—28:9, and the Haftorah is from Malachi 1:1–2:7.
Once there were two men lost at sea. They spent many days on a small boat and rationed their food equally. After weeks had past, the two men started to quarrel and resent each other. They decided to designate the right side of the boat for one man and the left side of the boat for the other. This worked for a while until the two began to fight again incessantly.
Finally, the man on the right side of the boat picked up a hammer and started hacking away at the left side of the boat. “I hope you end up at the bottom of the sea!” he yelled. Even as the water started seeping into both sides of the boat and the boat started to sink, the man kept hammering away, wanting nothing more than to harm his adversary — even if it meant harming himself.
In this week’s Torah reading we witness similarly irrational behaviour. Because of the famine in Canaan, Isaac went to live among the Philistines in the land of Gerar. Isaac worked the land, and because he was blessed by God, he produced 100 times the amount of the expected crop. This greatly benefitted the Philistine economy; however, the verse tells us that they were jealous of Isaac. They hated him for being so successful. So when Isaac left Gerar, they stopped up all the wells that Isaac had dug in order to better irrigate the land. This was horrible for the Philistine economy because it lessened their food production. But they didn’t care — the Philistines were more interested in shutting down any testament to Isaac’s greatness than in bettering their own situation.
This story perfectly illustrates the foolishness that can result from anger, resentment, and jealousy. These negative emotions are blinding and can lead a person to do irrational and counter-productive things — even to his or her own detriment. The truth is that these emotions are self-defeating. I recently read this quote: “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping that the other person dies.” Whenever we feel jealousy or anger toward other people, we sacrifice our well-being and only hurt ourselves.
I am often asked by people how it is possible to stop feeling a certain way. How can I stop feeling envy, hatred, or anger? To this I ask another question: How do you drop a hot potato? The answer, of course, is that you just do — because a hot potato hurts your hands, you quickly let it go. That’s exactly the same way to lose a negative emotion. When you recognize that it hurts you more than anyone else, you will simply let it go.