The world seems far more divided than I can ever recall it being… Our own country is virtually split in two, and what used to be a civilized debate seems to be an all-out battle. It’s hard to present an opinion without being name called and harassed, and that goes for the extremes on both sides. Anger and hate flow too easily. People have dug in their heels more than I have ever seen before. When people are entrenched it is hard to see the world for what it is… Hard to see the clouds and the sky and even the sunlight.
Great messages get lost when the messenger is not an ideal representative. And we need to be very careful with the ends justifying the means. How we get to an end point does matter. Judaism teaches us so much about doing the right thing and how to behave. We get there with the short-long way or the long-short way. Either path involves learning and Torah, and must include the basics of humanity. At the very least, the Ten Commandments are a guiding and logical beacon. Doing the right thing and not judging others is not as easy as it should be… Trying to see the good in everyone can be a major challenge, but if we were to live truly with these basic notions, what a world we would have.
When manners and ethics and morals seem to be lost, it takes its toll. And if a person is already suffering internally, these external forces can wreak havoc. Just look at the external damage anger has created, from school shootings to flaming kites. Sometimes people direct their hurt inwards, and self inflict wounds on themselves. This past week the world lost two icons to suicide. While I knew of Kate Spade only in the periphery, I know a lot of people in the fashion industry who are devastated.
Clearly she had mental health issues… stress, depression, anxiety… But when your internal wounds are not able to be dressed and healed by the external world, I would imagine hope is lost even more.
And there is an Anthony… a nice Jewish boy, by definition… which is maybe why I so adore this picture. It captures the love affair many of us Jews have had and still have with Chinese food! Christmas Day… a movie… and a red-leather booth Chinese restaurant. Shhh… we’re not talking about Kosher right now, but we could be. There are Kosher Chinese restaurants in the Chood!
I never met Anthony Bourdain, and yet his personality loomed large for me. He excelled at several of my major passions… he cooked… he wrote… he travelled… he was an amazing onscreen personality… and perhaps most importantly, he had a deep and delving desire to truly connect with other human beings. My daughter often makes fun of me for how I will not only talk to strangers, but for how long I talk to them and to other people. I am deeply curious and love to learn, and the fact that Tony Bourdain got paid to do this in some of the most amazing places, over some of the most amazing food and drink is remarkable. It’s hard not to be envious of that.
And yet… it wasn’t enough. The demons, the darkness and the pain called to him. It started with heroin when he was still a teenager… and despite a loving girlfriend, a young daughter and seemingly being on top of the world (literally) he killed himself on June 8, 2018. Anthony Bourdain was… was… WAS! I still cannot wrap my head of the use of the past tense for a man larger than life.
There are so many lessons I am trying to take away from this. The first is the extreme importance of loving yourself. If we do not love ourselves, it is almost impossible to love others.
And envy… one of the things that torments me. While I do not wish to be anyone else (which is how I define jealousy… wishing we were another person) I do envy certain things… certain lifestyles… certain abilities others have…
While it is not always easy, I have to remember that Hashem made me as I am, has placed me where I am for a reason. And while I have the Free Will to create and grow and achieve, I need to be happy with where I am… celebrate all I have… for there is always someone with more… and ALWAYS someone with less.
My friend Shlomo talks about the bookend commandments, the first and the last, and how they are so deeply connected.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
(Some count this as one and two… )
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
If we believe in Hashem fully, we will believe in ourselves. If we believe in Hashem and ourselves, we will have no need to covet. We will realize that not every picture on Facebook represents the truth of a situation, and while we might envy the shiny representation of a life, we might not change the issues hidden off-screen, behind closed doors, nor trade them in for our own.
Anthony’s life seemed perfect… at least his on camera life. He seemed to be happy and seemed to have conquered his own demons. Clearly those demons were still there. While we might control our envy to only the good things, clearly a person is a whole package and with the good may come bad… a bad we may not want or want to trade for anything.
Judaism gives us so many tools, so many ways to trust in Hashem and trust in ourselves. But it also gives us the wisdom to hopefully know when we are in trouble… when we need help… It teaches us that crying out is nothing bad… nothing to be ashamed of… Asking for help is imperative, and Hashem would not have so many resources for us to connect with, if he did not want us to seek help.
“Cast your burden upon Hashem and He will support you.”
His support is all around… it is in our family and friends and so many organizations. While we have the Amidah, the silent prayer, most of the prayers are supposed to be said out loud… sung… So do the same with your life… speak out… speak loud and shout if you have to. The only way for us to help you is if we know you are suffering… if we can see and hear your needs.
Help is out there… all you need to do is ask. We may move up and down that ladder, but holding on is key. Hold on… hold on…
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)
No Shame on U: