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Thought for the Day: Bitachon 101 (aka Life)

One of the joys of teaching freshman physics is doing fun demos.  One of the most popular is the bowling ball pendulum, used to illustrate quite dramatically conservation of energy.  It's easy enough to set up.  First, hang bowling ball from ceiling by long rope (my lecture room in Salt Lake City was theater seating for 300, so we had a really high ceiling).  Professor grasps bowling ball and pulls it to one side of the lecture hall, stands on platform, and pulls bowling ball to his chin.  (The rope is taught, of course.)  Then let the ball go to swing freely.  The ball swings to the other side of the room, reaches its peak height, then heads back.  Now, the law of conservation of energy tells us that the bowling ball cannot come up any higher than from where it started.  Since there is very little friction, though, the ball will come back to essentially where it started; ie, right to the professor's chin.  It's dramatic because the ball is swinging with some enthusiasm and literally comes back to just barely touch the chin.

When I did the demo, I closed my eyes.  I know energy is conserved, I believe energy is concerned.  Still... when you see a bowling ball coming at you, it's really hard not to flinch.  Flinching would be bad, by they way.  Remember, that bowling ball is coming (essentially) back to where it started.  If my chin were to be even a fraction of an inch closer, I would have gotten really hurt.  Besides that, the lesson would have been worse than lost; there would have gone my credibility for the entire semester.  You don't try this till you've practiced and are confident you can pull it off.

Monday I walked in to work to find that I had done something wrong that caused problems over the weekend.  Worse, it was something I had done before and learned how to do properly.  It was a sin of not paying attention and being lazy.  I also had to deal with a manager who treats me like his personal code monkey, constantly changes requirements and goals, never admits culpability, and is always sarcastic and abrasive.  I was about to go to his boss, or blow my stack, but then I had a thought, "Wait... don't I believe HaShem runs the world?  Yes; I do.  So that means this is all a set up.  I should look at this as a homework assignment in bitachon."

On the mistake, I went to my boss and admitted the mistake (viduy), apologized (charata), and then wrote a document for the group about how not to make that mistake (kabala al ha'asid).  Regarding my difficult manager, I thought about Yaakov Avinu and his horribly difficult boss of 20 years, Lavan.  So I thought over the m'forshim and have been conducting myself as Chazal tell us Yaakov comported himself with Lavan.  I even told his boss (who knew the whole situation) that I love my job because a good part of the reason we are in this world is to improve how we interact with other people.  He smiled, thinking, "He's a religious nut, but if it gets product to market, so be it."  I thought, "I'm a religious nut, but if HaShem wants me to work on my bitachon by getting product to market with a difficult boss, so be it."

It's like that bowling ball... I really know HaShem runs the world.  I really believe HaShem runs the world.  It's just hard not to flinch sometimes.  Practice makes perfect.

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