THE ENTITLEMENT EPIDEMIC OF OUR GENERATION
At the end of Parshas Emor the Torah writes the story of the son of Shulamis who was fathered by a Mitzri, who was put to death because he cursed Hashem. How did such a blasphemy come about? Chazal explain that he moved his tent in the domain of Shevet Dan the tribe of his mother. His neighbor chased him out saying that the Torah prescribes to follow the lineage of the father and not the mother. You don’t belong here. Shulamis’s son was so infuriated that he cursed Hashem. The underlying issue here was that this blasphemer felt entitlement to set his tent in the domain of Shevet Dan. This refusal of his entitlement caused him to do the unthinkable blasphemy of cursing Hashem.
Chazal say (Eruvin 19) that even at the gates of Gehenim the wicked refuse to do teshuvah. This is so amazing that how can it be so? The answer I venture to give is because of their feelings of entitlement. A person who spent his entire life constantly taking instead of giving, expects that he has the right to be given only the best. If he is standing at the gates of Gehenim, the feelings of entitlement tells him they must have made an error and got the wrong person. His real address is of course none other than Gan Eden in the Penthouse apartment.
The Rabbeinu Yonah at the beginning of his classic sefer Shaarei Teshuvah gives an analogy from the Medrash (Koheles 7,32) to understand what it means to be tardy in the teshuvah process and the repercussions for doing so. There was a group of prisoners in a cell. They successfully made a narrow opening in order to escape. They squeezed themselves out one by one and escaped except for one prisoner. When the guard returned and saw what had transpired, he beat up the prisoner that remained saying you had a chance to escape and you didn’t do it. For that alone you deserve to be punished. So too, says Rabbeinu Yonah, Hashem gave us a way to escape our aveiros through teshuvah and yet we chose not to take it. That alone deserves punishment.
But wait, the prisoner who stayed and did not escape acted properly by abiding to the law. Why then should he receive punishment? The answer is that since he did not escape obviously he feels innocent. He is therefore not a criminal that must wiggle himself through a narrow opening. He is entitled to walk out like a free and respected man. The guard realizing his thought process, understood that he cannot be rehabilitated merely by sitting in prison since, not only is he delusional into thinking that he is innocent, but he also feels entitlement to the point where he will not leave the prison is a dishonorable exit. The guard realizes now that he is worse condition that he ever thought before. The only solution for his rehabilitation is to hit him over and over again until some sense enters his head. Here again we see the Chazal that the wicked even at the gates of Gehenim don’t do teshuvah.
In Psychology Today Magazine there is an article describing how present day parenting is creating an epidemic of a generation who demands entitlement. When children receive everything they want, we feed into their sense of entitlement—and feelings of gratitude fall by the wayside. It’s what Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, believes is a “Me, Me” epidemic brought on by parents doing everything they can to insure their children’s happiness.
“The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids’ endless demands," she says. "Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.
“Overly involved parents helicopter their kids’ every move and mow down the potential obstacles in their path,” McCready adds. “In our attempt to shelter our kids from adversity, we rob them of the opportunity to make decisions, learn from their mistakes, and develop the resilience needed to thrive through the ups and downs of life. This is all done in the name of love—but too much of a good thing can result in kids who always expect to get what they want when they want it.”
In contrast, the first word that a Yid utters in the morning upon awakening is Modeh, thank you. We start off our day with the expression that declares I have no claim on entitlements from Hashem. Everything is a gift to which I express my gratitude.
In the English language, the word Me describes a definite person with special needs and desires which are expected to be filled on demand. When asking who is on the phone and the person responds it’s me, with this answer the receiver of the call is expected to know exactly beyond any doubt who that me is. After all there is only one me.
Sammy Davis Jr. wrote a song titled I Gotta Be Me. His opening chorus is Whether I’m right or wrong Whether I find a place in this world or never belong, I gotta be me I gotta be Me. What if the me is a selfish abusive personality, narcissistic and void of all middos? קנאה תאוה וכבוד is his trademark and his sole ambition. Such a Me is definitely wrong, and the world is not a place for him. However, according to the goy that is still fine, right or wrong, just bring out the Me. Deep down they are at least sending the subliminal message if not overt, that you are entitled to be wrong and do evil which therefore stamps it right.
In Lashon Hakodesh the same word Me means just the opposite. It refers to a person who is unknown and unidentifiable, humble and unassuming. The מי describes a virtuous individual who negates his desires to Hashem and doesn’t expect service and acknowledgements for his accomplishments. ואתחנן אל ה' Moshe Rabbeinu who was a מי individual did not claim his Bill of Rights in order to enter Eretz Yisrael because he was the giver of the Torah of Hashem in this world. He asked for a present even though he was not deserving of it. Moshe the loyal shepherd of Am Yisrael came before Hashem as if he had no identity or history of merits, and he approached Hashem without entitlement claims.
Yes, Dovid Hamelech also lehavdil elef havdalos also wrote a song of I gotta to be Me I gotta be Me thousands of years be Mr Jr. In Perek 24 of Tehillim he writes מי יעלה בהר ה' ומי יקום במקום קדשו. I gotta be מי an individual who is nullified to the will of Hashem, to ascend the mountain of the Almighty and remain in His holiness. After seven weeks of Sefirah of fixing and refining our middos we are standing on Shavuos the 50th day ready to receive the Torah. We are supposed to have reached the level of Me which is מי the gematriah of 50. This is the real Me even if I am not fully aware of it 24/7. To attain the מי is the purpose for which I was created. This is the only Me that is right in the world which I belong. As we go through the days of Sefirah one must ask himself which me is he really working on.
If one thinks that Moshe’s non feeling of entitlement is because of his great madraigah and therefore such conduct is not expected from us let me bring you a story that I just recently read about Rav Eliezer Dessler ztl. Whenever he would travel on public transportation, he would never press the stop button indicating to the driver to let passengers off if he was the only one who had to get off. He would only get off with other passengers. Sometimes this would cause him to travel two extra stops before some else needed to get off the bus. When questioned about his peculiar behavior he responded that he knows very well that everyone on the bus is in a hurry and is pressured. This Avreich is running to be on time for the beginning of Seder in order not be docked from his weekly check. This woman is rushing home not to be late for her children when they come home from school. Is it right then that Eliezer Dessler should bother everyone on this bus to make an extra stop just for him thereby making everyone else more pressured and perhaps even late to their appointments?
Rav Dessler similar to Moshe Rabbeinu did not feel entitlement even for the things that he was 100% entitled to. Of course I already know your response and that is this is an extreme conduct and an over sensitivity from which we are not obligated to learn from. Not true. We have to learn to apply this conduct of non entitlement in situations where the entitlement is not so clear. That is in situations where we don’t even think at all about causing extra bother to people because of our feelings of entitlement to laziness, pettiness, carelessness, lack of concern, hakpados, or kovod?
Every time we make a beracha we mention that Hashem is theמלך of the entire world. What ramifications does that have when we mention that title in our berachos? Hashem is the king and we are his subjects and servants. Whatever a servant owns belongs to the King and master (Pesachim 88b). Being an eved to the King warrants a response found in the acronym of the word מלך – מגיע לי כלום . These three words of bittul came out of the mouth of Rav Gavriel Sasson who tragically lost seven of his children because of a blaze in his home. Only an individual, who possesses incredible deep emunah and a very clear recognition of his relationship of being an eved to the Melech of the Universe, can say and truly mean these three words of מגיע לי כלום after such a devastating loss. As Iyuv (35,7) saidאם צדקת מה תתן לו Even if you are righteous what are you actually giving to Hashem.
There is a vort in Yiddish that when one asks his friend how are things going lately and at the present they are not doing so great, one responds with קאן זיין בעסער it could be better. Whereupon, his friend answers back ווער זאגט, who says? Who says it could or should be better? Did you ever think that maybe this is exactly what Hashem the Melech Haolam decided for you and it is the best scenario possible for your tikkun in this world. Your response of that it could be better carries with it the negative aspect of your feelings that you are not receiving what you deserve and what you are entitled to. What entitlement?
P.S. I just received a sign from shamayim that this Dvar Torah of Entitlement was supposed to go out to press. Yesterday the city was tarring the street of the Yeshiva so I parked on an adjacent street for the day early in the morning. When I returned to my car last night I noticed that my right windshield wiper was standing erect so I should pay attention to the note written and placed there. Little did I know that my parking would cause such a raucous. This is what it said
נא לא לחנות את הרכב במקום זה יותר. אני עובד פה עם רכבים ובמשך כל היום לא יכולתי לעבוד !!!!!! זה גזל
The writer of this note made me feel like the blasphemer who was told by another Yid to stay out of his space because he doesn’t belong there. The only difference is that this guy on Bar Ilan has zero entitlement to a public parking space. If he could call this stealing I wonder how Hashem who is called Makom, feels about us when we park our bodies in His space to go against His will. We are also holding Him back from His business of bringing down his Shechinah to reside on earth. We definitely don’t want to receive a note of reprimand from Him.