Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Ever since my Remembrance Day post, I’ve been thinking about a post on sensitivity to the left vs. sensitivity to the right, but it’s not quite there yet. That, in addition to the day-to-day schedule and my travel to New York this past Sunday and Monday, has slowed down my blogging. A quick item, though, since I haven’t posted in a couple of days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Blame – why we need to blame people, even ourselves, for the various problems of our lives. Children are always looking for someone to blame, largely as a way to shift responsibility away from themselves. As we get older we also learn to blame ourselves, sometimes productively and sometimes unproductively. We blame Gd, too, in ways both subtle and direct, and this can be a demonstration of sincerest faith or a blasphemous attack.

The neviim talk at length about blame, because as a nation, we blame Gd for our problems, we blame luck for our problems, and we rarely blame ourselves/our errors for our problems. The result is that we go looking for solutions in all the wrong places; see Hosheia 7 (which comes to mind only because I just taught it yesterday; there are many other excellent examples in Tanach).

Blaming can accomplish great ends, or it can be self-destructive, or it can simply affirm our sense that there is an order, purpose and meaning in life.

Casting blame on others can be an attempt to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, but I suspect that approach doesn’t work, and in fact induces frustration and shame, in anyone with a modicum of self-awareness.

Not to mention, blaming the wrong party guarantees you won’t solve your problems, and possibly make them worse. Which brings me to a simple event from Monday night.

My Continental flight from Newark to Toronto was supposed to depart at 8:30 PM… which became 9:00… which became 9:10 PM… which became 9:40 PM… and we eventually took off somewhere around 10 PM, to arrive in Toronto about 11:30 PM. By this time I was good and tired, tired enough to forget that I had flown out of Toronto on a different airline, from a different terminal, so that my car was not at Terminal 3, but at Terminal 1.

I headed for the parking lot and its self-pay machines, and inserted my ticket in the first slot I found. Rejected. Being the person I am, though, I decided to try a second machine; blame that first machine for its incompetence, of course. (Yes, I entirely ignored the model ticket on the machine, which very clearly did not resemble my own ticket.) Strike two – it was rejected. Undaunted, I blamed both of those gadgets and tried a third machine. Yes, this was clearly the fault of two defective machines.

The third machine liked my ticket so much that it decided to keep it. Push Cancel. Nothing. Mull kicking machine, decide against. Push call button, speak to the nice attendant, certain that it’s the machine’s fault. Wait. Wait. Wait. Attendant comes, opens machine. Attendant patiently explains that this ticket is for Terminal 1 parking, not Terminal 3 parking. Thank attendant very much for his time at midnight, and head for train to Terminal 1 and my eventual arrival at home at about 1 AM.

Whom do I get to blame for getting to sleep so late? Myself, of course. Well, Continental for the delay, myself for the parking mess.

And the lesson: Be careful where you cast blame for your problems, or you’ll end up digging your hole even deeper.

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