Sometimes in our life we make mistakes. We fail to reach our potential, or fall just short of our expectations.
Often, we comfort ourselves by saying "If I would have been at the right place or timethen everything would have turned out right", or "I did the best I could given my poor situation", or similar statements confirming that the intention was noble; it was the the external factors which led to the undesired outcome.
The truth is, that this idea touches upon a very deep theological question. Of course G-d wants the best from us, wants us to 'behave' perfectly. But if that's the case, then how can He put us in such terrible situations!? No matter how hard we try, our surroundings, friends, family, mood, health, even weather, all play a role in how we conduct ourselves. There are times when bad things happen. If G-d wants us to live a holy, spiritual life, then He should put us in a holy, spiritual world!
In the Torah, there is a distinctive difference between our first two forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, and our third father, Jacob. While they were entirely righteous individuals, living a life devoted solely to G-d, Abraham and Isaac both had sons who did not share their father's (and mother's) good traits. Ishmael and Esav did not follow in the footsteps of their holy parents. However Jacob managed to not only have twelve sons, but as our tradition confirms, each of his sons were considered tzadikim (completely righteous individuals)! What was the difference? Could it be upbringing? Nature versus nurture?
Although Abraham travelled to the Lad of Israel from other lands, and occasionally left the land of Israel, nevertheless, it was there where his primary residence was located, and was there where he and Sarah raised their children. Isaac never left the Land of Israel once in his life! But Jacob, after fleeing from his angry brother Esav, dwelled in the land of Charan with his shady relative Lavan for more than fourteen years, and it was there that he began is large family. He was far removed from the spiritual advantages of the Holy Land, but precisely in the mundane environment of Charan he merited to raise upstanding, spiritually pristine children. True, it must have taken much more effort. But in the end it payed off.
Therein lies the lesson for us. If we were meant to serve G-d without challenges or struggles, He would have created us as angels, and placed us in a high spiritual realm. But G-d wants our service of Him to affect us. Love which comes easily may not stand a test when that love is threatened. But a love which is borne out through effort, and conviction, this love is strong and enduring. G-d wants us to live in a mundane, difficult world, and precisely there, to work and toil on ourselves. And although it may be hard, our relationship with G-d which we work to achieve, is even more precious than the divine service of the angels.
Until further notice the weekly Parsha class has been postponed. If anyone in interested in setting up a time to learn together one-on-one, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Chabad of Southern Mississippi is planning some wonderful events for Chanuka (which is less than three weeks away). Please stay tuned. Details about our Chanuka schedule will follow shortly.
Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom,