Q: Dear Sir, how will I not get angry at someone who betrays ... [me]. Thanks and Regards. — S in India
A: Dearest S, I am honored to try to answer your eloquently short but spiritually profound question. Plus, I am also happy to answer a question from my only reader in India.
Let us begin by acknowledging the deep pain caused by betrayal. I believe that for some act to rise to the status of betrayal, the betrayer must be a trusted friend. Insults and attacks, frauds and contrivances from strangers are ultimately not betrayals. They are just pieces of moral lassitude that pierce us in the bad weather of modern civilization. Bad people with no moral conscience are everywhere, and if you live long enough you will bump into some of them. There is no way to protect yourself against criminals. All you can do is take precautions and hope for the best.
One precaution is to beware of people who speak well. Slick con artists need to convince you that what they are selling or wanting or buying is just exactly what you need. Their communication skills convince you that what seems to be too good to be true is actually good. It is never good. Just avoiding smooth talkers is the best protection you can have. Trust your instincts. If you have been living just fine, there is no reason on God's green earth why you can't continue to live just fine without whatever they are peddling.
Sadly, many betrayals come from unworthy charities asking for your money. Phony charities proliferate particularly during this time of the year when our hearts are softened. This breaks my heart because many worthy charities that are doing God's good work in our broken time are in desperate need of help and if you can help them you should help them now. One way to sift through the wheat and the chaff of charities is to find out how much of the money they raise goes to the good cause they supposedly represent and how much just goes into their own pockets.
Every real charity has legitimate overhead. A very few charities, like the Lustgarten Foundation, have mega donors, like my friend Charles Dolan, who pay all the overhead themselves so that 100% of the money donated goes to their charitable work. My rule of thumb is that any charity that gives less than 70% of its donations to the work they are promoting is suspect.
Outstanding charities like Catholic Charities and the United Jewish Appeal take far less than 20% for overhead. You can and you should check with sites like Charity Navigator, Guidestar.org, and Give.org to see how a charity ranks.
Another obvious move is to only give to charities whose work you have seen with your own eyes. We raised guide dogs for the blind, and seeing the floppy-eared Labrador retrievers trained by the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown flouncing along the street assisting a blind person changed my life, and I saw this with my own eyes and my own heart.
So that's enough about being conned by people and pseudo-charities you really do not know.
Real betrayal comes from friends who turn out not to be friends at all. That is the hard part of your hard question.
My first advice comes from the teaching of rabbis who came before me. It is to treat all hurts directed against you as little sins and all hurts you direct to others as major sins. What this means is that you should not be so quick to believe that you have been betrayed by a friend. Perhaps what you consider a betrayal is just a misunderstanding or a misreading of the facts. Talk to the person and try to find out what they really intended.
If you have been betrayed, try to examine why you trusted such an untrustworthy person in the first place. Trust must be earned through actual trustworthy deeds. Do not be so quick to trust.
Another important consequence of betrayal is to cleanse your life of untrustworthy people. Move on past the betrayal and try to fill your life with people who sincerely love you. Stop making excuses for betrayers. Life is too short to let it be broken by false friends.
The highest level of spiritual recuperation from a betrayal is to forgive the betrayer. Jesus' famous last gasp, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), is a lofty goal, unattainable by most people, but it is surely a worthy goal. Forgiveness frees you from the pain of betrayal and allows you to move ahead into true friendship and love.
SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.