When Serena Williams was interviewed on Sunday, after winning her 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open, as she joined the ranks of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, she explained that part of what allowed her to relax into the tournament was the confidence she had gained through her successful summer of play.
My jaw dropped. Number 1 in the world, holder of 17 grand slam titles, three Olympic gold medals needs to boost her confidence? What does that mean for the rest of us mere mortals? For me, who finds myself often wondering if I am good enough for whatever I’m doing?
Then as I reread Rabbi Alan Lew’s (z”l) wonderful book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, as part of my High Holy Days preparation, I came upon a section I didn’t remember.
I try to make the best of what I have by offering up my shlimazelhood to others, in the hope that this may illuminate their own inner shlimazel and help them come to terms with it. (p. 241)
I had earlier in the weekend read a blog by another of my teachers, Rabbi Mordecai Finley, on one of his often repeated topics: anger. His teaching boils down to: “A morally healthy person does not inflict the anger onto others, because the essence of morality is not to cause avoidable harm to the innocent.” Yes, we all have our unmet needs, but it is both our responsibility and in everyone’s best interest for us to work it through before the rage spills over.
I often think that the topics we teach about the most are the ones whose lessons we are still incorporating (although I have a couple topics I would do well to teach on, if that were entirely true…)
I don’t generally think of anger as one of my besetting sins, but I read the blog the day after exploding at my husband. I don’t often think of myself as a shlimazel either, but sometimes, I come across moments when I moan, “What did I think I was doing?” in how I treated someone or did something. Looking in the dark corners of our souls, of our behavior: that’s Elul…
 One definition is the person who is “the constant victim of bad luck and his own remedial bungling” (Lew, p. 240).