26 Jul SELF-DESTRUCTIVE PETTINESS
Sometimes we wonder if we’re being petty. When somebody left us off his invitation list, and we feel insulted, we start wondering if we’re being petty. When somebody gets up at a function and thanks a bunch of people, making no mention of us, and we feel upset, we start wondering if we’re being petty. There are many other examples, as well. There are times when we feel slighted, and it makes us upset. Are we being petty? No, I don’t think we’re being petty. Little things have a way of becoming big things. Small insults sometimes mean something big. It makes sense that we feel upset, and we should not feel guilty about it. But – we need to be sure not to obsess over it, not to hang on to this feeling, not to resent it and make a fuss. One of the famous stories told aboutthe destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash is the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza. In short, Bar-Kamtza received an invitation to a party that was meant for Kamtza. The host despised Bar-Kamtza, but Bar-Kamtza figured that maybe he was making amends, so he attended the event. When the host saw Bar-Kamtza, he had him physically thrown out of the building. Bar-Kamtza was so angry over his humiliation that he informed the Romans that the Jews were planning a revolt. The Romans sent their army and ultimately set the Bet Ha’mikdash and all of Jerusalem ablaze. Bar-Kamtza was not “petty,” not by any means. He had every reason to be angry and hurt. The problem is that he didn’t let it go. He decided he needed to do something about it, and this ended up destroying the Bet Ha’mikdash and Yerushalayim. What’s noteworthy is that Bar-Kamtza lived in Yerushalayim. We may assume that he and his entire family were killed because of what he did. Because when we can’t let go, we destroy ourselves. If we let our resentment consume us, we end up destroying not only other people, but even ourselves. The Gemara tells that Hashem approached one of the worst sinners in Jewish history, the wicked king Yerovam, and offered him the opportunity to repent. He told Yerovam that if he repented, then he would be invited to be in Gan Eden together with Hashem and King David. Yerovam asked, “Who is first?” He wanted to know whether he or King David would walk in front. G-d told him that David would walk first – and Yerovam said he wasn’t interested. This is how pettiness becomes self-destructive. When our name is mentioned second, or not mentioned it all, it bothers us so much that we are willing to sacrifice everything to fight back. During this period of mourning for the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash, let us try to avoid destroying through pettiness. We might be justified in feeling slighted or offended, but if we make an argument over it, we are not helping ourselves. We are just ruining things for others and for ourselves. Even when we feel legitimately hurt, let’s be strong and rise above the pettiness…so instead of destroying, we will build ourselves, our lives, our families and our community into something greater and more beautiful that we ever imagined.