Last night, after coming back from Halifax, I was in an odd mood - which accounts for the remarkably foolish thing I did. If it were irredeemably foolish I wouldn’t post it at all, but I do feel like there is a lesson to be learned here.
My flight was late coming in (surprising, I know), and so I was five minutes late to minchah. In my absence someone had assumed I was still away from my Shabbos trip, and had parked in my “Reserved for Rabbi” parking spot.
This is no big deal, it happens from time to time and I somehow survive the grievous insult – but, as I said, I was in a weird mood, so I decided to park perpendicularly behind him, neatly locking him in until after my post-Maariv, ten minute mishnah class would end.
It was a joke, and everyone seemed to be laughing about it when I went out to the lot later. This includes the locked-in guilty party; he came to my mishnah class, and laughed when he saw what I had done. I apologized for any embarrassment, and it was over – or so I thought.
I received an email later last night, from a third party, castigating me for my “display of pique” against the person who had parked in my spot. To this minyannaire, it appeared that I had been angry at the tresparker, that I was taking revenge against him for his offense. Within that view of my actions, he quite logically criticized me.
I immediately assured him that I had not been at all upset at the lazy parker, that this was just a sophomoric practical joke and nothing more. But I also had to admit that I had broken Rebbe’s rule from Pirkei Avos: Choose a path which will be תפארת for you personally and תפארת for you from others. In other words, think carefully about the way that others will interpret your actions.
As part of our basic obligation of Kiddush HaShem, and avoiding Chillul HaShem, we are forced to weigh our actions based not only upon our internal calculus, but also upon the calculus of bystanders. Even if 99 out of 100 - or 14 out of 15 as I believe it was last night - will understand what you were doing, the last one is still a concern.
Last night I hadn’t thought about that perspective at all; I was just having a good time. And therein lies the mussar of messing with the rabbi’s parking spot.