We protect what we hold dear and cherish what is valued to us, but how often do we treat ourselves as such? The feelings of inadequacy and existential lacking seem to have washed over so many of us, becoming an unfortunate reality many struggle with.
First seen on Torah.org by Dr. Nossom Chayim Leff, the Sfas Emes clarified a complex pasuk in this week’s parsha, revealing a fantastic understanding which we must instill into our lives.
Dr. Leff writes on Parshat V’Zos HaBracha, in a clarified ArtScroll translation, that Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, “May your borders be sealed like iron and copper, and like the days of your prime, so may your old age be” (Devarim 33:25).
Quoting the Chidushei Harim, the Sfas Emes said “sealed” referred not to physical or geographic borders, rather to our human borders.
Material items are not apathetically tossed aside or intensely challenged as to their worth. Items of value are secured in a safe with the durability of iron and copper. Moshe is telling us that our human borders, the security of ourselves as intrinsically worthy beings, should be fortified as strongly as our physical valuables are; protecting a healthy self-image is crucial.
One of my rebbeim once shared a seemingly simple, but utterly deep line. “Self-love,” he said, “is not a democratic vote.” Turning to social media and external metrics to measure our self- worth has become second-nature. We often find ourselves quoting Vayikra, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But do we love ourselves? Do we respect ourselves and see our value? Do we understand how important we are to the world?
The above clarification of the pasuk, along with the Sfas Emes’ idea, reaffirms the centrality of self-worth and self-love in Judaism.
Rav Kook writes, “Every person has the ability to change the world… There is no limit to the power of the soul. It is a candle of the Divine in the world” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 1:846).
This is unbelievably powerful; it is just one of many more examples which reiterates our self- worth. There is something in this world we are each needed to do, and each mission is unique to each person. No matter how many times we falter and fail, we can always persevere and succeed.
Hashem loves us, and He will never stop loving us. But what can we do to ensure that we always love ourselves?
If we see the essential roles that each of us play in the dynamics of the world, and we internalize how purposeful our lives truly are, how could we deny our worth? And if we know that every step we take is participating in the journey of our lives, that Hashem’s love only grows from the success we strive for, how could we not love ourselves? However, we must be wary not to allow this to taint our minds with haughtiness because that can be detrimental.
We must secure the borders of ourselves because what lies within them is of infinite importance. Our lives should reflect our value, and then the feelings of self-love and self-worth will flow naturally. Self-love and self-worth must be stored and secured, guarded at all costs. Hashem loves us and knows what we can do. Now, we just need to convince ourselves.