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Neighbors
by L'chaim
Most of us, at some point in our lives, have had obnoxious neighbors. The obnoxiousness can take many forms. Maybe you go to bed at a reasonable hour but your neighbor insists on playing music into the morning hours. Loud. You like classical, or even "oldies but goodies," but your neighbor insists on playing very bad country. Loud. Or worse, he plays it himself, in what seems like an echo chamber aimed at your kitchen. Loud.

Maybe the obnoxious neighbor takes your parking place, or his visitors block your driveway.

Maybe your neighbor walks her dog on your property - or rather, lets her dog run all over your yard, doing whatever it pleases.

There are many ways a neighbor can be a nuisance. Some actions are annoying, create friction, and just get us angry. Yet they may be legally, ethically and in the scheme of things, just petty annoyances, but not dangerous, life-threatening, or illegal.

So what if the neighbor is just obnoxious, a nuisance, irritating, inconsiderate, but not more than that? How do you deal with it?

(If you politely ask the neighbor to alter her behavior, if you explain to him why the music bothers you or why you need the parking space, and the neighbor apologizes and accommodates, you didn't have an obnoxious neighbor. You had - past tense - an insensitive or oblivious one.)

You have three choices: prevent, counterattack, or ignore.

In every case, you'll find the best way to deal with an obnoxious neighbor is ignore him.

This parallels what Chasidic thought teaches us about the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. Although these teachings focus on an obnoxiousness that disturbs our prayer, the advice applies to all our spiritual endeavors. In fact, this advice works well any time we are trying to focus (and accomplish):

"Even if licentious imaginings or other extraneous thoughts occur to him during his service of G-d - in Torah or in prayer with concentration - he should pay them no attention, but avert his mind from them immediately. ... for example, a person who is praying with devotion while facing him stands a wicked heathen who chats and speaks to him in order to confuse him. Surely the best advice in this case would be to answer the wicked heathen neither good nor evil, but rather to act as though he were deaf, without hearing, and to comply with the verse (Proverbs 26:4), 'Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you too become like him.' He should answer nothing at all, nor should he engage in argument against the foreign thought, for he who wrestles with a filthy person is bound to become soiled himself." (From Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman)

So whether the "obnoxious neighbor" is the person living next door, or our own distracting or "foreign thoughts," we have to recognize that both divert us from our goal, drain our energy and keep us from being productive and recognizing the positive in our life.

The obnoxious neighbor and the unhealthy thought should be ignored, and we should concentrate more on what occurs inside our homes - the physical home outside our heads and the spiritual home inside ourselves.

 

 


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