Unnecessary Paranoia by Rabbi Joel Grossman


The Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 4:1) asks, “Who is wise?  One who learns from everyone, as David HaMelech said, ‘From all of my teachers, I became wise.’”

In Parashat Noach, we can learn a great lesson from the raven, the bird Noach sent out to investigate whether or not the flood was over and whether the waters were finally receding.  The Torah relates, “VaYeshalach Et HaOreiv VaYeitzei Yatzo VaShov,” “He sent out the raven, and it kept going and returning.” (BeReishit 8:7)  Rav Yissochor Frand quotes Rashi, who presents an explanation for the raven’s strange behavior.  Rashi cites the Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) that explains that the raven suspected Noach of being involved in improper behavior with the raven’s mate.  Somehow, the raven thought that Noach was sending him away from the ark because he wanted to be alone with the female raven.

Rav Frand explains that the Gemara’s sages are not teaching us about the raven’s feelings; rather, they are teaching us about people’s feelings.  The feeling of paranoia is illogical and stems from our egos.  We tend to view everything around us in terms of how it affects us.  We think that we are the center of the universe.

Rav Frand writes, “Until the age of twenty we are completely obsessed by what others are thinking about us.  From the age of twenty until forty we develop the self confidence to disregard what others are thinking about us.  After the age of forty we develop the wisdom to see that others are not thinking about us.  They are thinking about themselves.”

As we begin this new cycle of reading the Torah, we should learn from the raven that people are not speaking poorly about us or trying to harm us; they are merely conducting their lives normally, thinking about themselves without any idea of hurting us.  If we can keep this in mind we will fulfill another important concept from Pirkei Avot (1:6), namely, “Hevei Dan Et Kol HaAdam LeChaf Zechut,” “Judge everyone favorably.”  Giving people the benefit of the doubt will lead to Shalom, peace, among people, which is, as the last Mishnah in Oktzin puts it, the greatest blessing of all.

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