Sometimes the hardest battle is against yourself.
In a world where others broadcast accolades to themselves with carefully edited videos and finely tuned social media posts, it’s hard not to feel anxious from time to time. “It is in the character of very few men to honor, without envy, a friend who has prospered” (Aeschylus). The reason we struggle with insecurity is most likely because we compare our “behind-the-scenes” with everyone else’s “highlight reel.”
The weekly Torah portion gives us the most magnificent validation to this deeply personal struggle and also gives us the tools to overcome this common malady.
The Torah is always extremely brief in its narrative, never elaborating on a single unnecessary detail. Many laws are derived from a single letter or vowel and entire centuries of history are often condensed into a single verse or word. The entire account of the world’s creation spans a mere twenty-nine verses, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai is but fourteen verses.
Yet we’re shocked to discover that the Torah devotes an entire chapter, spanning sixty-six verses, as it relates the story of how Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. In the account, the Torah elaborates on every detail of this seemingly benign expedition and then proceeds to repeat the entire story as Eliezer recounts his experiences to the family of the prospective bride, though the rerun seems to teach us nothing novel!
In an oft-repeated message to his Shluchim (Rabbis and Rebbetzins) at the Global Convention of Chabad Rabbis, which is taking place this weekend in Brooklyn at Chabad World Headquarters, the Rebbe explained that this passage is in fact vital for us to recount in intricate detail because it is in fact the story of each one of us!
When Abraham ordered his servant Eliezer to travel to ancient Iraq to find a wife for his son, the latter hoped that Abraham would choose Eliezer’s own daughter as Isaac’s wife. Yet despite his deep desire to marry into the illustrious Abrahamic family, he proceeded on his journey and ultimately succeeded in bringing Rebecca back with him to become the future Matriarch of our Nation.
We’re given insight into his internal battle when the Torah places an extremely rare musical trope (Torah tune) when describing Eliezer’s inner thoughts. This note (which appears in only three other places in the Torah) vacillates up and down repeatedly to signify how deeply conflicted Eliezer was when embarking on this mission.
Yet, despite it all, he gets the job done! And that is what is so inspirational about this narrative: Like Eliezer, each one of us must struggle with profound inner conflict. Each of us was created with not one, but two souls—one self-centered soul and a second G-dly soul that pines to serve the Divine. Every single decision we make challenges us to overcome our inner conflict. Don’t be fooled by appearances when others around us make it look easy when they are doing the right thing.
Drawing on this story of Eliezer, the Rebbe urged us to realize that we all have been dispatched to this world on a mission by G-d Almighty. Each of us has been called upon to overcome our inner turmoil in order to fulfill the ultimate mission with which G-d has entrusted us. To struggle is normal; that is precisely how we were created by G-d. What matters most is getting the job done, not how we got there.
Here it is in the Rebbe’s words, delivered in a sermon on this Shabbos in 1990:
The mission Eliezer was entrusted with, namely, to arrange the match between Yitzchok and Rivka, reflects the mission of every Jew, to make the world a fitting dwelling place for G-d. Each Jew is G-d’s agent in the world, whom G-d has sent as a soul invested in a physical body,
And man, his inner conflict notwithstanding, submits himself entirely to this mission, and to G-d, and commits himself so completely that his deeds and his very personhood can be attributed to the agent’s sender, namely G-d.
When Eliezer chose to stay the course and fulfill his holy mission, he experienced success beyond his own capabilities. The Torah tells us that his journey was miraculously shortened, and that Rebecca was literally the first person he met at his destination. When we too choose to stay loyal to G-d, who has empowered us, we are now truly not alone as we are carried by the power of G-d. Like Eliezer serving as an extension of the righteous Abraham, when we commit to G-d’s mission for us, He joins in the action and causes us to experience miraculous success beyond our wildest dreams and expectations!
In 2002, a Chabad Rabbi and Rebbetzin in Germany had had enough. They had struggled through too many hardships in their attempts to bring Yiddishkeit to their community and decided that it was time for them to seek greener pastures. As they were preparing to pack, the mailman delivered their monthly copy of the Kfar Chabad Magazine, which covers various Chabad interests. Marking one hundred years since the Rebbe’s birth, this edition included one hundred remarkable stories of the Rebbe related in first-person, eye-witness accounts. One of the stories jumped out at the Rabbi and hit him like a ton of bricks:
“The Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Binyamin Klein told the Rebbe that a family of Shluchim (Chabad Rabbi and Rebbetzin) would like the Rebbe’s blessing to leave their Shlichus (where they were stationed) because of the challenges they were facing there. The Rebbe responded: “Tell them that instead of asking for a blessing to leave their mission, they should ask for a blessing to succeed in their mission!”
Excitedly, he shared this with his wife, and they unequivocally agreed that this was a sign from above. Heaven had sent them this story just when they needed it! This Divine intervention was an indication that Heaven was pained by their decision. They rolled up their sleeves, wrote to the Rebbe’s Ohel (www.OhelChabad.org) for a blessing for success, and devoted themselves to their shlichus with renewed vigor. Soon after, they began to see extraordinary blessings and today they have a flourishing Chabad center with impressive facilities of their own.
A few years later, when clearing out the storage room, the Rabbi came across the very same magazine that had inspired their decision to stay. Lovingly, he opened it to the article of ‘100 Stories of the Rebbe’ but was annoyed that he couldn’t find the story! He showed it to his wife, and she too couldn’t find it anywhere. Frustrated, he called the editor in Israel and asked him about the story, but, to their dismay, he had never heard of such a story! Exasperated they called Rabbi Klein himself, who surely would know of the encounter, but, to their shock and chagrin, he too had no knowledge of the entire event!
It soon dawned upon them that they had experienced a miracle of divine intervention when they needed it most. Somehow, they were led to read a story on a page where it wasn’t actually printed! They now understood that they were not truly alone in their mission and that the one who sent them was indeed with them. They had nothing to be insecure about! G-d was paving the way for their success, just like Eliezer who experienced G-d’s intervention on his holy journey!
You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. Sometimes our thoughts are dominated by so much insecurity, they create lies that we actually start to believe. The only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks.
In this amazing Parsha, Chayei Sarah, the Torah devotes an entire chapter in order to validate our struggle and spur us on despite our inner conflicts. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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