1 Posted by - February 18, 2014 - Being G-d like, Identity, Parsha, Shemot, Topics


Parashat Vayakhel
Life decisions are complex. It is not the surrounding circumstances that make these life decisions complex.  It is defining identity that is complex. For many people, the biggest life decision is marriage. Before any life decision one makes, one must know who he is, in order to be certain that his choices are, indeed, the right and suitable ones. Identity. After you read this article, you will know how to clarify your identity. After clarifying identity, you are ready for decision making. Making a difficult decision, weighing the options, mostly boils down to finding out who “I” in the decision is. A large percentage of the shidduch crisis of today is really nothing more than an identity crisis that has been brought to light. Today , to be a good shadchan, you need to be a good coach. To help people figure themselves out. To ask the right questions.

There are three big, loaded questions that get people thinking. What do you want to have? What do you want to do? What do you want to be? The last question cracks the combination to the identity vault. Once we understand these three, have, do and be, we will understand identity, and what people who have none use as their quasi identities.

What do you want to have in a week, month, year? ”Have” includes any possessions you might want. It includes anything that people say they have. A nice marriage. A good relationship with a child. An ability to do something. “Have” goes two ways. It does not imply only ownership. It implies responsibility. What things do you want to serve and be served by.  If you want to have children, a husband, or a wife, you have to take responsibility. If you don’t, if you want them to serve your needs while you disregard their needs, you won’t have them anymore… Being a father or a husband is not your identity. It is your responsibility.

Question 2. What do you want to do this week, month, year?  Profession. Career. Rabbi, doctor, lawyer, etc. Occupation. Hobbies. How do you want your schedule to look? This is what you enjoy doing, how you enjoy spending your time. These two, what you have and what you do, are not your identity. People who have no identity use them to identify themselves.

The golden question, the identity question is, “Who do you want to be?” You’ve got to know your Bees, all 3 Bees.  How do you Behave at present? How do you envision your Behavior?  Appreciative, courteous, calm and collected, egocentric or altruistic, intelligent, haughty or humble, passionate, respectful, straightforward and  honest, etc. How do you react to various circumstances? For this Be, we have a Heavenly guideline. מה הוא אף אתה , the mitzvah to emulate G-d’s ways.  To be נצר חסד, keeping in mind the kindness done to you, to  be constantly appreciative. אמת , to be honest and true. ארך אפיים, slow to wrath. Etc.

Second Be. Beliefs. What do you believe has the greatest value out of the things that you value in life? Spirituality or material physicality? Family responsibilities, family relationships or financial success? Kollel life or financial independence? Security or adventure? Most people go for a little of this and a little of that. And they get nowhere. Neither here nor there. Our Matriarch Rivkah, was confused during pregnancy. When she passed the Synagogue and study halls, she felt her baby kicking, as if he wanted to jump out to run to spirituality. When she passed the house of idol worship, she again felt the baby kicking as if he wanted to jump out and run towards idol worship. When she was told by the prophet that she had twins, one a tzaddik and one a rasha, she was calm. Her greatest fear was to have a child who is a little of this and a little of that. Half-half. Vanilla / Chocolate. Tzaddik / Rasha. In last week’s haftarah, Eliyahu challenged the people of his generation, Shomer Shabbat people who would serve idols after eating Chulent/Hamin. Serve either G-d or your idol. Why jump on both sides? I always wondered how Eliyahu Hanavi could make idols an option. The answer is when a person serves G-d and idols, he doesn’t realize he is doing anything wrong. Serving idols alone, he might realize that this is not who he wants to be.

Do you value the next world, or this world? Most of the time, you can’t have both.  And when people go for both things they value, they usually end up with neither.  Because your value is your motivation, the engine in your car.When you have opposing values, your car is going in opposite directions.

Third Be. To whom and to which circles do you Belong? With whom and what we associate ourselves is one of the most powerful influences on our identity. Such factors affect our decisions, giving us the impression that we didn’t even have a choice. “That’s how it is”. Know this.  A person is the sum total of his friends and the books he reads. People go a whole life not believing that their friends and associates will affect them. Just give it some time. It works like osmosis; values are contagious. Your identity will be formed by people with whom you associate. Others think that they don’t belong to anyone. These people end up defining themselves through the things they have or the things they do. Because most people have an inner drive to belong to something, somewhere, or somebody. Something bigger than oneself. And most people have more than one thing, place, group, job, value, etc., that they belong to.

Having two contradictory communities, groups of friends, nationalities,  can create somewhat of  a dichotomy(,especially for someone who is in the beginning stages of defining his identity).  These identity questions are big and tough. Ask your Rabbi or mentor to help you decide.  Part of being religious is having a Rabbi. Deciding who your Rabbi is. Another identity issue that we are suffering from tremendously. In our generation, there are so many religious orthodox who don’t have a Rabbi. Only in our unidentified generation, because we can’t decide.

R Yossi Ben Kisma said, Once I was going along the road, and a man approached me. He greeted me. And I greeted him in return. He said, “Rabbi, where are you from?” I told him “מעיר גדולה של חכמים ושל סופרים אני, From a big city of wise Rabbis and Torah scribes, am I.” He said to me, “Rabbi, do you want to live in our place, and I will give you many gold coins, precious stones and diamonds?” I answered, “My son, if you give me all the money, gold coins, precious stones and diamonds in the world, I will live only in a place of Torah.  For when a person dies, money stays behind. And only the Torah one acquires and good deeds a person does escort him to the next world.”(Avot 6;9)

The P’nei Shmuel points out that there is an extra word here.  When asked from where he came, he could have said, “From a place of great Torah scholars and scribes”. Why did he addאני , AM I?

The answer is an identity issue. R Yossi said to this man, “Where I come from is not just a place or an environment. It defines me. I am the yeshiva. I am the Beit Midrash. I am a Ben Torah. I belong to Torah,  and I represent Torah. Even if my Kollel years come to an end, even if I go to work, I am a Ben Torah.  I have no interest in associating with communities where money has prime importance, because that is not my identity.” The identity of a Ben Torah is beyond physicality and materialistic considerations.

Identity is the cornerstone of all thoughts and relevant to the deepest, most crucial parts of all life decisions. Even the Evil Inclination know this, and in order to control you, he goes for your identity. After sin, he persuades you that you’re not the same, + sin; you are a sinner. This is the way he breaks you. Making a person give up his Ben Torah identity is the greatest victory for the Evil Inclination.  He redefines you.( נפש החיים)

Most people think backwards. When they have to make a decision, they think Have, Do, Be. They want to have something, and they don’t know why they don’t. They want to do some things, but they end up doing other things.  The secret recipe to success is to define the questions in the right order… Be, then Do and Have. Decide your identity, with what and whom you associate, what your order of values is: now, start working in the direction of your ambitions and goals. And then you can have the life that you really want. If you can’t get what you want, or you aren’t doing what you want to do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it or you can’t have it. It just means that you are “out of order”.


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