Adopt a sheep-ish attitude

Let’s do some positive self-affirmations. Shall we?

Stand in front of the mirror, and say:

I am strong.

I can do it.

I matter.

Wait, stop there for a moment. I have an issue with those self-affirmations. Because for me, any self-affirmation that can be doubted might not work.

Am I strong? Maybe not? Maybe I am just too weak?

Can I do it? Maybe I can’t?

Do I matter? Maybe I don’t?

You see, it’s easy to say self-affirmations, but it’s not easy to substantiate them. And unless we can say those affirmations with a reasonable degree of certainty, we might be essentially lying to ourselves.

Interestingly, according to Chassidic teaching, the road to self-empowerment goes through an unexpected place.

The way to become stronger and feel better about ourselves is through… self-nullification (Bittul)!

How does that work?

When we focus less on ourselves and more on our connection to G-d and the mission He has given us, we are tapping into the greatest and truest source of power.

And with that power, we can genuinely accomplish everything.

One fine example of this can be found in this week’s Parsha, which describes Yaakov’s (Jacob) daring journey from the comfort of his parent’s home to Charan’s foreign and often hostile environment.

Yaakov succeeded despite the enormous obstacles – both physical and spiritual. He raised a remarkable family and accumulated significant wealth.

When describing Yaakov’s wealth, the Torah pays attention to his primary source of success: his flock. It tells stories of Yaakov’s sheep and breeding methods, as well as his dedication to his job as a shepherd.

Does this story remind you of Yom Kippur? It should. Because one of Yom Kippur’s famous prayers is “Ki Anu Amecha”, a song that describes our relationship with G-d, and it includes the following sentence:

We are your flock / and you are our shepherd.

(By the way, in 1956, the Rebbe taught a beautiful song to this prayer. You can listen to the song here)

There is just something about the sheep.

Popular culture tends to see sheep in a negative light. “Don’t be like a sheep,” we are told. Because a sheep is known to follow the shepherd, it has become a symbol of weakness.

The Torah has a different view on this: The sheep is a dedicated animal that will follow its leaders wherever it takes it. It should not be only a symbol of weakness but also one of utmost dedication.

And so, when facing the challenges of Charan, Yaakov had a secret power: the sheep.

He emulated their example and was wholly dedicated to G-d’s mission; he was confident of his success because he knew his power came from G-d; he was unstoppable.

With this “sheep-ish” attitude, let’s return to the mirror and modify those self-affirmations.

I am strong. Because I am connected with the real source of strength, G-d himself.

I can do it. Because G-d gives me the tools I need to handle whatever comes my way.

I matter. Because G-d himself chose me to make His world a better place.

May we always recognize our G-d given greatness and abilities.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of
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