Lost in Traffic

“That’s a chutzpa!”  I barked as I saw one of those non-descript, silver Kia/Hyundai type cars pulling into a turning only lane -the lane was clear of cars – with no intention of turning.  He then barged back into the busy (no-turn) lane a few meters later.  And for what?  So he could gain a bit of distance and save himself (possibly) a couple of minutes.  “It’s pathetic how people will behave like animals on the off chance that they’ll  save a bit of time on the trip to work”, I complained to myself in righteous condemnation of the motorised sinners’ wanton act of moral ineptitude.

Thoughts of composing a book on road ethics crossed my mind as I meandered leftwards and towards the lights ahead.  “Oops, it looks like a long wait” I said to myself, as I saw the line of backed up cars.  “Why don’t I fly ahead until near the lights and then I will gently sidle up to one of the cars in the front and delicately slip in and save all that silly time waiting in line”.  I knew that if I stayed in the right lane the wait may be a long one. And that is exactly what I did.  Without even a second thought, I cruised ahead, slithered smoothly into the turning lane and saved myself minutes of wasted time.

Only later, much later, after thinking about my morning did I notice the glaring hypocrisy.  I had managed to duplicate the chutzpa of the silver sedan within minutes of my own internal ethical tirade.

The thought that bothers me the most is not that I pushed in line during peak hour traffic – mortals are frail and I am formed of flesh and blood – it’s that I did so while internally vilifying the same behaviour in another. Furthermore, it is my suspicion that this kind of double standard is not the exemption to my view on myself and life, but the rule!

The Mishna puts it beautifully, it says that after one shuffles off his mortal coil and has to stand up for trial in the heavenly court, he will have to give “din vecheshbon” for his actions. Din is judgement but what is cheshbon?  (Literally translated as reckoning).  The Balei Mussar explain that judgement is a ruling on what a person did, right or wrong.  In this process he can defend himself by citing extenuating circumstances, eg.  I didn’t have enough liquid assets to give charity.  What reckoning does, is it measures the consistency of his actions, in the above case, the fact that he spent a nice chunk of his income on a new ipad, will undermine, his “no liquid assets” claim.

Consistency in space and time is a goal for life – and the afterlife

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