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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5776

Ein Ayah: The Right Person to Stay Calm at the Hardest Time

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:114)

Gemara: Our Rabbis learned: One should always be humble like Hillel and not confrontational like Shammai. There was a case of two people who made a bet, saying: “Whoever will go and anger Hillel will get 400 zuz.” One said: “I will go and anger him.” That day was Friday, and Hillel was washing his head. He went and passed by Hillel’s house. He said: “Who here is Hillel? Who here is Hillel?” Hillel got dressed and came out to him. 


Ein Ayah: The factors that calm the mind so that one does not react emotionally and get annoyed at people come in a few forms. One is when one is at complete rest, in which case he is so calm that he does not become irritated. On the other hand, that situation could cause annoyance because the person can be upset the irritating event has taken him away from the calm he enjoyed. Yet, the calm setting does give him the peace of mind that usually allows him to handle the situation well, even though someone is trying to remove him from his good feeling.

Sometimes one who is in taxing circumstances will actually be trained to be calm and patient, even though he will be lacking full calmness. This is because he can become trained to deal with vexing circumstances and come out of them reasonably.

The worst situation is when something upsetting arises when one is in a period of pressure and is preparing to be extricated from it. After all, he is not yet within a state of calm, but he is looking forward to having the calmness and not bracing himself to deal with additional upsetting matters. Therefore, for these two reasons, he is most susceptible to becoming agitated.

Another thing that prepares one to not get upset is if he is in the mode of being around people, in which case he prepares himself to deal with different types of behaviors from various people. In contrast, when one is concerned with his own needs in such a manner that modesty requires him to separate himself from others, then he is even more susceptible to losing his patience at a difficult person.

Let us consider the situation one is in before Shabbat. One has been involved in troubling things during the course of the week and is now preparing for a tranquility that has not yet arrived. When he is bathing, he is further in a situation of needing and wanting to be away from others. This is the exact circumstance in which the man who was full of chutzpah chose to try to upset Hillel. The supreme humility with which Hillel acted at that time proved that this was a characteristic that was at the depths of his type of sanctity. All the preparations taken to pick the time that was most likely to upset Hillel did not help. We see that true modesty is in the heart and soul of the modest person and does not need to be aided by favorable circumstances. That is why Hillel is described as being the epitome of tolerance and humility.

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