“Is that smoke?” I wondered, as I read email in a room down the hall from my kitchen. I paused for a moment and sniffed the air. Curious, I stuck my head into the hallway. The living room looked foggy. Just then I remembered–dinner! I hurried to the kitchen, reaching there just in time to see the oil I had earlier placed in the frying pan catch fire. Seeing the flame I panicked and instead of reaching for the pan lid to smother the burning oil, I grabbed the handle, moved the pan to the sink and turned on the water. Immediately, flaming mist began floating out of the sink and the hair on the front of my head caught fire. As it rained down my face in a fine powder, I placed my hand on my head, cutting off the oxygen and putting out the fire. It was then that I realized the phone was ringing. I guess I hadn’t noticed it over the sound of the smoke alarm. “Are you having an emergency?” the calm voice of the security company employee asked when I picked up the receiver. “No, I am fine, thank you,” I replied before hanging up. I didn’t want to get into a philosophical conversation with her about how not thinking, though often the cause of emergency situations is not in and of itself an emergency. Besides, if I had told her I was, at that moment, a victim of Mishigas, she would have sent the authorities to find the culprit. This would have been even more embarrassing than having to go to work the next day with my bangs seared off at an awkward angle, for Mishigas is not a perpetrator, but a Yiddish word which loosely translated means “self-created chaos and craziness.” Now who wants to admit they have caused their own drama?
You know how it goes:
You didn’t think about gathering up gear for work the next day because there was a football game on TV. You also didn’t remember to set the alarm before you fell asleep on the couch. Now you are angry at the slow drivers preventing you from getting to work on time where soon you will learn that you left your office key on your dresser at home.
You didn’t think word of your most recent exploits would reach the ears of your significant other, but now you are calling around to see which one of your buddies will let you sleep on his couch.
You know the holidays are coming, but you didn’t think they would arrive this soon. Now you are over committed, under prepared and thoroughly exhausted.
Mishigas – self created chaos – it’s what follows statements like:
“I’m pretty sure I have enough gas to get home.”
“I don’t need to read the directions; I know what I’m doing.”
“It’s been in the refrigerator a long time, but it’s probably OK to eat.”
“I’m only going to do this once. I’m sure I’ll get away with it.”
“A wedding should be pretty easy to plan.”
“Hey ya’ll, hold my beer and watch this!”
The chaos that follows remarks like these can be everything from hilarious to tragic, yet most of the time the drama could be avoided by doing one simple thing – thinking.
When we look to the Biblical text, we see that not even our spiritual ancestors were immune from Mishigas:
Eve didn’t think taking the advice of a serpent over God’s command would lead to difficulty (Genesis 2 -3). David didn’t think calling for Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, to join him on the roof would have tragic results (2 Samuel 11). Samson didn’t think revealing the secret of his great strength to Delilah, an ally of his enemy, the Philistines, would lead to his demise (Judges 16). Read their stories. It is amazing how like us they are. Perhaps God is trying to tell us something…
Since the holiday season is now upon us, I’d like to suggest that this year we give ourselves and those we love a special gift. Less Mishigas. In this season of peace let us:
Pay attention. Ask for directions. Use the right tool. Drink less. Fill up the gas tank. Make an executable plan and pray for discernment – especially around extended family…
Me? I’m going to back away from the stove and enjoy my husband’s cooking!