June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Tishrei is a great time to work on our middos, and one major middah that we need to work on is the middah of selfishness. And I bet you agree. You’re saying, “Yeah! Everybody around me needs to work on their selfishness! They need to start thinking of others!”

“Yeah, well what about you?”

“I’m thinking of others right now! I’m thinking of several others who need to work on it.”

But you can be selfish, too. For example, we all get very selfish when we’re behind the wheel of a car. We’re like, “Yeah, well I have to get somewhere in a hurry. Why is that guy in my way?”

Well, clearly, he has to get somewhere in a hurry, too. That’s why we have cars. Cars were invented because everyone was walking everywhere, and then someone was like, “Well, what if we have to go somewhere in a hurry?” Sure, we’ve all been stuck behind people who were clearly in no rush to get to where they were going. But I personally have never gotten into a car and not already wanted to be where I wanted to go. I’m not one of those guys who enjoy the exercise of driving like people enjoy bike riding.

And you’re even selfish when shmoozing with your friends, because when other people talk, you don’t listen. You’re waiting for your turn to speak so you can tell them a different version of the exact story they’re telling, only your version is better because it involves you.

Another sign of being selfish, experts say, is that you get nervous when you’re not the one in control. I sometimes get nervous when I’m not in control, but then, I’m a teacher, so I probably should be nervous. On the other hand, you ask, since I’m a teacher, shouldn’t I be teaching the kids that it’s OK to not always be in control? I’m not that kind of teacher. Also, when a kid wrests control of the class from me, he doesn’t then teach everyone English.

And speaking of noise, how about making noise when people are trying to sleep? I mean, if you’re a morning person and people are still in bed, it’s totally OK to do it. You can slam things as loud as you want, turn on lights, get into conversations with them, honk your horn, mow your lawn right outside the window, and so on. I’m talking about if you’re a night person. You have to tiptoe around and whisper. If I mow my lawn at 2 in the morning, I’m the bad guy. People are trying to sleep so they can wake up early tomorrow morning and annoy me.

And how about people who litter? Is your mother going to come down the street behind you and clean up your mess? You’re the one who enjoyed the snack; you should be the one cleaning it up. At the very least, you should drop a little tip on the ground for whoever does.

Wait. Have I been picking up other people’s tips but not their litter?

OK, so you’re thinking, “What am I supposed to do? Hold my empty Slurpee cup until I find a garbage can somewhere?”

No, that’s crazy. What am I thinking? Though I guess a situation where I do understand tossing it on the ground would be if you’ve just treated yourself to a Slurpee and suddenly your wife rolls up with all of the kids in the car, and you know that if they know you were drinking a Slurpee, they’re all going to want one, and you’re not going back to the store. But even then it might be a better idea to hold onto it, and when your kids say, “Oh, I noticed that someone dropped this, and I was trying to clean the planet.” Turn it into a teachable moment.

“What planet?”

That way you can spend the rest of your parenting career watching your kids pick up other people’s used garbage bare-handed and cringing about how many germs they’re picking up.

“See, Totty? I’m picking up all these beer bottles! Like you with the Slurpee that one time!”

And what about when you don’t knock before coming into a room? I’m not even talking about a case where the person in the room is in a compromising position, such as that he’s making change in a pushka and you walk in just in time for the part where he takes out the money. It could be they’re just standing in front of the door, hanging up a towel or reading a calendar, and you’re about to slam them in the face.

And this works both ways. If you’re the person in the room, you need to respond to the knock, and loud enough. Because how long can someone stand there wondering if anyone is in the room before they come in? So if you’re in the bathroom, for example, and someone has the decency to knock, you need to immediately say something like, “Who is it?” like it matters who it is. Just so they know someone’s in there.

Here’s a heads up: You are not more important than anyone else. Well, maybe you are. I don’t know you. Though I will tell you that no one I know is really more important than anyone else. It could be that you are. If you are, write in! We all want to hear your version of this, which is probably more interesting because it involves you.

Or maybe you should be selfish; who knows? Sure, people say it’s better to give than to receive, but you know who says that? Other people. Of course they’re going to tell you that. Why would you tell someone else that it’s better to receive things?

So here’s an idea: Better yourself. Yes, before you improve anyone else, ask what you can do to make yourself better. Me first, right? You deserve it. Earn yourself some Olam haba!

The good news is there’s less traffic there.

Take that how you will.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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