Happenings of the Chabad Lubavitch אנ"ש community of Rockland County, New York
Friday, May 10, 2019
By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
Have you ever felt
like losing your temper but at the last moment you managed to restrain
yourself? These types of inner battles often happen when encountered by a
traffic officer or similar representatives of officialdom. But this conflict
can happen just as well on the domestic front.....and the same restraint is
The Parshah of Kedoshim (Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1-20:27),
begins with the concept that we should be holy. What exactly does this mean?
The commenter Rashi explains that the term "holy" implies
self-restraint. There are many temptations in life. To be holy means to have
the ability to control one's immediate impulses.
commentator, Nachmanides, makes the point that this self-restraint may
sometimes take a person to a point beyond the simple letter of the law. Jewish
law permits a person to eat kosher food: but should one be an
out-and-out glutton? According to this view, even if the food is as kosher as
could be, restraint is power; it shows that one is truly free as an individual,
rather than just being just a slave of one's appetite.
Do you remember the
story of Jacob and Esau and the plate of lentils? One way
of understanding that story is that Esau was ready to sell his birthright, the
most precious thing in his life, for a plate of food. One response might be:
"How pathetic!" Others might feel sympathy with someone who is
sometimes a slave to his senses. They might say that after all, this is our
human situation. Nonetheless, one should expect a person to aspire
to be master of his or her own being. A human being, yes. An animal -- no.
Much of the Parshah
is devoted to giving guidelines about this kind of self-mastery, in a number of
different areas of life. The keynote to all these is the famous teaching
"Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi Akiva taught
that this is the great principle of the Torah and it relates to all
other aspects of Jewish thought and all areas of personal relationships. This
includes, as well, the instruction not to take revenge, nor even to bear a
grudge. This certainly needs self-control: in our actions, our words and even
Imagine such a
person! Does he or she actually exist?
We can imagine this
behavior happening with a very simple, naive or even inspired kind of person,
who never sees bad in anyone. Or we can imagine a person of power, who has
acquired genuine inner self-mastery. But us, for ourselves as well? Can we
exercise such self-restraint? But if the Torah instructs us to do so, then we
have that ability!
What is power?
Throughout history people thought that it means mastery over others. Now we
realize, it is mastery over oneself.
Daily life presents
us with many instances of personal battles and confrontations, as suggested and
implied in our Parshah. This would include our relationships with our parents,
in business dealings, dealing with giving charity, in the borders and
involvements between men and women, and also regarding our behavior when we are
genuinely in power over others, e.g. as judges - to be fair in all areas of
judgment to both rich and poor.
This Torah portion
poses the challenge for man to exercise the power of restraint, in order to
build a world of goodness for the future. Man has that ability to restrain
himself when and where needed, which will help bring about an entire world
filled with holiness.
from Chabad.org – by Rabbi Tali Loewenthal)