middot equanimity besorah storms within and without

storms within and without

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-wavesMy maternal grandfather is the calmest man I have ever known. This was probably why he was selected among all other family members to give me my first driving lesson.

When I got into the driver’s seat the first thing he said to me was, “you have absolutely no control whatsoever about what anyone or anything does except yourself. Whatever comes your way: flying bird, deer, oblivious child, other car cutting you off… do not panic. It may be the thing that saves your life or another’s… Okay, put the key in the ignition and let’s get this thing goin’!” I was startled by that initial advice, but he was right; the advice never left me, and I know I am alive today because of it.

He went down to the boat, and his disciples went down with him.  There was a great storm on the sea, to the point where the waves would cover the boat, but he was sleeping.  His disciples approached him and woke him, saying, "Save us, our master.  We are perishing!"  He said to them, "Small ones in faith, why are you afraid?"  He got up, reprimanded the winds and the sea, and there was a great silence.  The men were amazed and said, "Who is he, then, that even the winds and the sea listen to him?"  -- Matthew 8:23-27, DHE

Storms are no joke when you’re on a boat. In fact, it could be the most fragile place for a person to be. I once heard a pastor say the reason Yeshua could sleep on a boat during a storm was because there was no storm inside him. With no storm inside of him, he was not threatened by the storm surrounding him. Nevertheless, it was probably just as good that his talmidim woke him up as it was good for them to see him sleeping. From a place of alertness, inner peace, and authority he calms the storm. I wonder if his talmidim missed the point by focusing on the fact that he had the power to do so rather than on the inner peace he demonstrated. It is reasonable for them to have missed the mark because they let that storm swirling around them sneak into them to the point that they were too panicked to even notice Yeshua’s peace.

In this event Yeshua reveals why equanimity is vital, and shines a new light on my grandfather’s driving advice. The storms do come but our decision to have no storms within can overpower the chaos threatening to hurt us. When we have equanimity in balance we hold both the reality that we cannot control what comes and that our inner calm can drastically impact those things that do come. May we all find ourselves calming the storms that we refuse to let grow inside of us.

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