To grow as truthful human beings, we must avoid trying to pass ourselves off for something we are not. Occupation "inflation" does not make us greater, but lesser. Puffed up egos do not make us more important, but less worthy.
Angel for Shabbat
Is it really possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? In some special cases, the answer is yes. But in many cases, it would seem to be unlikely, if not impossible, to love others as oneself—especially if they are unlovable!
The Pessah festival is a time of celebration of the Israelites' redemption from their servitude in Egypt. But as we commemorate the miraculous freedom from physical bondage, we must understand that the festival is also devoted to our spiritual re-awakening. Each of us has his and her individual song, the underlying melody which imbues our lives with meaning.
The hope for religion is the growth of religious institutions that actually take their parishioners seriously, that don’t insult their intelligence, that speak to their spiritual needs. Educated people are not—or should not be—looking for a religion that depends on ignorance and subservience, or that fosters superstitious beliefs and practices.
Early in the Haggadah, we read of the gathering in B’nei B’rak of Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon. “They were reclining and discussing the exodus from Egypt all through the night until their students came to them and said: ‘Our teachers! The time for reciting the morning Shema has arrived.’”
Arrogant and egotistical people are not essentially interested in truth. Rather, they engage in propaganda, mind-control, and stubborn adherence to their own opinions regardless of how erroneous, biased, or dangerous. They would rather suffer than admit personal error.
Each individual is expected to draw on his/her best strengths and talents in order to fulfill his/her distinctive mission in life. If one internalizes the feeling of having been chosen to accomplish great things, one can live with vision, energy and sense of purpose.
This week’s Torah portion deals with the malady of “tsara’at” which our sages understood as a punishment for “lashon hara,” negative language. The word “tsara’at” may be related to the word “tsar”—meaning narrow. It may have the connotation of narrowing/diminishing the value of others. When one diminishes others, the punishment is self-diminishment.
People fail in life not because they don't have the power to change and to grow; but because they inwardly resist change and growth. People succeed in life because they have the strength to learn, to grow, to see life as an unfolding adventure which should be lived with courage and vitality.
A Talmudic passage (Sotah 11a) offers an imaginary scenario relating to Pharaoh's decision to enslave the Israelites and murder their male babies. Bilam advised in favor of these evil decrees and ultimately died a violent death. Job remained neutral, and was later punished with horrible sufferings. Yitro opposed Pharaoh’s decrees, had to flee, and was ultimately rewarded.