Guest post by Yerachmiel Goldstein
The week began, like most weeks, sitting on the subway next to a large, disturbing man watching X-Men 2. Everyone else had faces of stone and seemed eager to complain about the cold outside. I was tempted to say something very generic like “Wow, it’s so cold!” or “It really is cold out there” or “At one time this year it was warm, but now, it’s just so cold and that makes me feel so bad!” So, I bundled up on the way out of the subway station and faced the cold.
Wearing a face of constipation from the cold winds, I ran into the lobby of my office building where I was met by a small, elderly Asian woman shivering and smiling. We both were very excited about the elevator that would eventually come and bring us to offices full of coffee and heat. We looked at each other and exchanged light grins and faint nods of the head. I then let out a slight shiver acknowledging that I happened to be cold. She said smiling and shivering, “Verrry cold.” I replied rolling my eyes, “Yes, well, it is winter!” She laughed and turned her head still shivering and smiling. I began to explain how I felt it was very annoying that everyone was so surprised that it happens to be cold in the winter. She didn’t seem to understand and laughed at everything I said, though, I never said anything that was funny. Then I think she became annoyed that I was still speaking. I gave up on the conversation. Soon, a small, elderly Asian fellow walked in and stood between me and the woman. He also was smiling and shivering. We both acknowledged each other’s presence. He said, “It’s very cold outside.” I said, “Yes well, it’s winter!” He laughed, as did the elderly Asian women again. I began to explain my theory on why everyone seemed to be stating the obvious correlation between winter and coldness. He gradually grew disinterested and smiled but clearly had no interest in anything I was saying; he genuinely didn’t listen. I gave up and realized I wasn’t able to communicate my message to these strangers. I stood there still cold and waiting for the elevator to come and rescue from this situation gone wrong.
But what was I expecting? I was expecting approval and connection. I was expecting them to say “Yes, I understand exactly what you’re saying and agree with you whole-heartedly.” Maybe we’d become friendlier to each other and even become real friends! But this wasn’t anything really real. We weren’t connecting. I wanted them to listen to me, and they wanted to drink coffee in their offices.
So back to return my question, why this surprise of the cold? Again, it’s winter in New York. But really, it’s not the cold. It’s the pain of the winds. The reality of not being able to go outside and walk around like a normal Floridian.
However, our bodies are already pretty warm. 98.6 °F to be exact (Wikipedia). But still, our bodies are not enough to protect us from the cold outdoors.
In accordance, the ultimate external enemy towards our inward spirituality is coldness. It is lack of warmness towards others, the annoyance of having a real connection. The coldness forces us to seek instant warmness. We seek to connect to the immediate. But those things aren’t inherently warm; they are just warm for the time being, like coffee.
Coldness then leads to numbness. And what is like to feel numb? You don’t. There isn’t a feeling or desire to connect to anything real. Why? Because there isn’t an immediate, warm feeling waiting for you. Similarly, during this time year, we gravitate towards immediate warmth. At the time of being cold, all we want is to be warm. Maybe that’s why my situation at the elevator was not a genuine connection. We were all too cold to truly connect.
Any real connection with another requires an investment of self. And as we learned from Wikipedia, we are already warm. So, how to truly get out of this coldness? By investing ourselves into whatever we are doing, particularly into another. The perfect example is tzedakah. The giving of money or time to someone reveals your own warm nature to someone who truly needs it. This means that the warmth is already within you and becomes revealed once someone else can draw it from you. Meaning, stop looking for warmth but simply, be warm.