“No, please don’t happen now!” I was thinking as I was driving along the highway in the cold of the winter.

We had been having some car trouble, with the engine overheating at random times. For a while we made sure to keep extra coolant fluid in our trunk in the event of an emergency. But after fixing what turned out to be a leak, we hoped that the issue was finally resolved.

Now far from home, and alone, the problem resurfaced. I wasn’t excited about the prospect of finding a rest stop, but as I watched the temperature indicator rising, I realized I had no choice.

Several moments later, after a kind gas station attendant explained that the coolant container just hadn’t been closed tightly and it had allowed some of the precious liquid to leak out, I was safely back on my way. With the engine’s temperature—as well as my own blood pressure—now back to normal, I could drive safely while contemplating what had just happened.

Our drive along life’s highways also has many occasions that can cause us to get too hot under the collar. Irrespective of the temperature outside, once our anger has been triggered, our inner temperature rises by the moment. It could be a leak in our faith, or our emotional containers may just not be properly closed, and we’ve become too affected by our circumstances.

Continuing to drive in such a state is no longer safe. We need to stop, evaluate, and cool off the engine of our heart.

What is this psycho-spiritual “coolant” that can help keep our inner temperatures even-keeled?

For some situations, the solution may be meditating on the fact that everything is happening exactly as it is meant to be; that G‑d is ultimately guiding us, and that this too (even an overheated car on a forlorn road!) is for our good. Or, it might mean taking a precious few moments closeted away from the current problem and allowing the quiet solitude to help us regain equilibrium. Other times, it may involve adequate preparation before beginning the long drive—making sure to seal your container tightly, or to steel yourself so that you’re not leaking your precious calm as you enter the trying circumstance.

In these weeks leading up to the holiday of Shavuot, as well as through the summer months, we’ve begun reading Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers. These beautiful nuggets of wisdom help us gain greater wisdom and perspective as we work on building our character traits in preparation for receiving the Torah. These also may be our precious ammunition when our engine is becoming too hot to handle.

Because one thing is clear: driving an overheated vehicle is just not a safe option.

What do you do when you feel your inner temperature dangerously rising?

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW