This week I came across an interesting article about different ways people cope with stress. Have you ever been so stressed-out, so worked up, anxious, and afraid that you … fell asleep?
As far as I know, human beings react to the threat of danger with one of two possible responses: fight or flight. One or the other might be a wiser choice, depending on the situation at hand, but both options make sense as reflexive means of survival. But how does falling asleep help anyone?
According to Dr. Curtis Reisinger, a clinical psychologist at Zucker Hillside Hospital, humans are not limited to the two options of “fight or flight,” when dealing with a crisis, there are several other ways that people respond. Some people freeze, some people flood (with emotion), some people fawn (give in to the threat of the attackers or the stressful situation) and some people fatigue.
At the end of Sefer Bamidbar – Parshat Masei, the Torah summarizes the 42 journeys and encampments the Jewish people went through from the Exodus until they stood poised to cross the Jordan to enter the promised land, emphasizing G-d’s compassion. Notwithstanding the decree of wandering ‘Bamidbar‘ – in the desert for 40 years, the Jews experienced great miracles. G-d created a situation where running away was not an option. He “forced” them to experience His miracles.
Sfat Emet notes that this notion has implications for all generations. There are times when flight (or any of the above) is the most appropriate response. However, there are other times when we don’t have that option. It is in those times when the most appropriate response is to wait for a Yeshua – salvation. As King David said מן המצר קראתי י-ה – “From the depths I cry out to G-d” (Tehilim 118:5). The ‘Meitzar’ refers to a situation where there is no possibility for fight or flight. This, suggests Sfat Emet, is why we read this week’s Parsha during the three weeks between The 17th of Tamuz and Tisha B’Av, referred to as ‘Bein HaMetzarim.’ A time when we too recognize that galut (exile) is an experience where we are in a proverbial enclosed space with nowhere to run.
Sfat Emet gives us another word to add to the list of responses – faith. We can and should continue to deal with crises in ways that are most effective. However, ultimately, many of the situations that exist on a broader level (anti-Semitism, infighting, assimilation) are a function of our being ‘bein hametzarim’ — bound by the limitations of galut.
May our appropriate actions and responses bring us to a place where we merit G-d’s salvation speedily in our days.
During the week of the Ninth of Av, we observe more mourning customs than what we have been observing since the seventeenth of Tammuz and Rosh Chodesh Av (this Shabbat).
However, this year, the Ninth of Av falls on Sunday, so no weekday precedes it during its week. Therefore according to Sephardic custom, we observe during the coming week only the laws of Bein Hametzarim and the Nine Days:
- Minimizing Joy
- Abstain from eating meat & drinking wine (other than on Shabbat, and for Havdallah on Motzei Shabbat).
- Sewing new clothes
- Buying new clothes or shoes
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay