Here’s a story about me and my sister, Mia. Like typical siblings, we almost always get along. But once in a while we have silly arguments. Usually it involves where we sit. At the kitchen table, on the couch and, of course, in the car.
Most arguments, like these, are totally ridiculous. And yet we get into them. And it’s not just me and Mia. These ridiculous arguments go on everywhere. We see them in lots of movies, like one of my favorites, “Freaky Friday,” where a ridiculous argument between a mother and her daughter results in their switching bodies.
My Torah portion, Vayakhel- Pekudei indirectly deals with this topic. At the beginning of Vayakhel, it says: לֹא-תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ,בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם, בְּיוֹם, הַשַּׁבָּת
“You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Shabbat day.”
One commentator, Rabbi Isaiah Ha-Levi Horowitz, wrote in the 16th century that besides the literal meaning of the words, this verse also alludes to the fire of anger. So on Shabbat, we should find a way to eliminate all the silly arguments that we get into on other days. This can help us to avoid letting our anger get the best of us on other days.
I think this is good advice. As one who has occasionally gotten into unnecessary arguments, I’ve figured out some ways to get out of them.
Here are Dr. Oz’s, I mean Dr. Sarah’s five bits of advice on how to avoid arguments:
3) If 1 and 2 don’t work, and you say OMG I don’t care what the consequences are, pause once again, just to make sure.
4) If even THAT doesn’t work, count to 10 and if you are still mad count to 10 again.
5) Finally: be calm. Really. If you just live life in a calm way, you’ll never get into these arguments in the first place.
Interestingly, while some commentators see fire as a symbol for anger, one particular commentator sees it very differently. And he happens to be my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great uncle, a very well known Hasidic rabbi named Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, who was called the Sfat Emet.
When he looked at flames, like the fire on the sacrificial altar – flames that never went out - he said that they represented a raging fire of love that must always burn in the heart of every Jew.
So when we are told not to light a fire on Shabbat, it means that we shouldn’t argue, but we also should be careful not to extinguish the fire that already has been lit – the flame of love.