Stressed Out in the Middle-East


Stressed Out in the Middle-East


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A Good Housekeeping Guide to the War of Gog and Magog

by Yisrael Rutman

The price of Paracetamol in Israel has doubled since the government recently lifted its price controls. This is bad news for a people living in the midst of existential crisis that sees no end. Nor do you have to be in mortar range of Ramallah to be suffering from the stress of daily shootings and bombings. Jews throughout Israel and the Diaspora are all under the gun in one way or another, concerned as we are over the safety of our fellow Jews, as well as the universal anxiety over what the future holds.

It's a stress-producing situation, to say the least. And Sharonian stoicism---seemingly unlimited restraint in the face of seemingly unlimited provocation---does little to calm the nerves. For this, you have to seek out the experts. So I consulted one of the leading women's mass-circulation monthlies, Good Housekeeping, to see what advice their stress-masters had to offer. The following is a sampling of their sage advice:

"Change your ways of looking at the world."---Much of our unhappiness is caused by negative assumptions. "If you didn't receive an invitation to a neighbor's housewarming, would you assume that he doesn't like you?"

Nu, so what if we weren't invited to the last Arab League summit? Maybe the invitations got lost in the mail? Actually, as somebody pointed out to me, the Arab League did invite us, but on one condition---that the Jewish state ceases to exist. So, you see, we really could have gone if we had wanted to. We chose not to, that's all. Now, don't you feel better?

"Remind yourself that others are not necessarily going to act they way you want them to."---If you stop making demanding statements---"People shouldn't be so rude!"---and re-word them in your mind as preferences---"I'd really like it if people were nicer!"---you'll feel much less stressed.---Go ahead, try it: "I'd really like it if the Palestinians would stop sending suicide bombers to Israeli cities." There, don't you feel better already?

"Lower your suceptibility to other people's bad moods---You can't control others' moods, but you can buffer yourself against them."---Another vote for building a high, strong fence separating Israel from the Palestinian Authority.

Just because she's angry, doesn't mean I have to get angry, too.---Just because they are employing every anti-Semitic lie from Holocaust denial to blood libel, doesn't mean that we have to hate them back. What if, however, we initiate a unilateral ceasefire, and they continue bombing and hating? Then what?

None of the advice seemed applicable to our situation, until I noticed the following inspiring ideas:

"Try switching off the T.V. It's time consuming and not very satisfying." Whether they realized it or not, the editors had hit on a piece of advice that any rabbi would have been proud of. For that is exactly what the Torah enjoins us to do every Friday evening---turn off the tv, the radio, the telephone, and all the other appliances and conveniences that give us such a headache the whole week long. Give your nervous system a day off.

Set aside special times for the things you enjoy doing. Anticipating the good time you've set aside for yourself adds significantly to the enjoyment. Shabbat again! We are supposed to look forward and plan for it. In fact, the traditional way of naming the days of the week are by number, from one to seven. Each day's counting is a reminder of the beautiful, restful day of Shabbat to come. It's a good idea, too, to get all the cooking done early, before Shabbat comes in. Not only will it enhance your relaxation on the seventh day, but it the preparation itself---the shopping and cooking---can be a form of joyful anticipation.

According to a Roper Starch poll, listening to music is America's #1 stress-buster. Really? That's the age-old custom of singing songs at all the festive Shabbat meals. Of course, the halachah forbids playing musical instruments or tapes on Shabbat, but it's a wonderful opportunity to re-discover the joy of singing along with family and friends.

There is a custom that in the synagogue ceremony of welcoming the Shabbat, just after the chanting of Lecha Dodi, anyone in mourning that week enters. This is because there is no public mourning on Shabbat. So instead of remaining at home, as mourners normally do, they join the congregation just as Shabbat is about to begin. And we offer them the traditional formula of consolation---"May you be comforted among the other mourners of Tzion and Jerusalem." We are all in mourning over Tzion and Jerusalem, but when Shabbat comes in, we are to banish our bad feelings. Check your stress at the door, friends. And, as it says in the prayerbook, "Awake and Sing."


from the August 2001 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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