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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Searching For the Weakness of Our Soul

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Every neshama has a purpose and a unique excellence of its own.

No two neshamos should be striving for the same goal. As much as we all have to try to succeed in everything we do, each one of us has a specialty which should be the emphasis of our lives. 

So, you may ask, how do we get to know exactly what our specialty is? How do we learn about the potential of our individual soul? How do we know if we are going on the correct path? 

There really is a very simple way to discover the greatness of our souls. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what areas in life come easy to you and what presents the greatest challenges. You will certainly locate areas of your spiritual personality which make certain accomplishments seem almost impossible.  Excelling in those areas of weakness are the purpose of your soul! It is with those weaknesses that you can become great! (Based on the teachings of Reb Tzadok HaKohein)

After a long life of separation and anxiety Jacob reached out to his family just before he passed away from this world.  Yaakov and his sons had gone through so much together. They fearfully encountered Esav; they endured almost unbearable pain over the episode of Joseph; they suffered through the violation of Dina and the violent reactions of her brothers; they experienced the uncomfortable relationship of Yehudah and Tamar; they mourned the death of their most beloved wife and mother Rachel. Reuven disrupted the chain of tradition by overstepping his boundaries; they all left the Land of Israel to move to Egypt - and so much more. 

Now Yaakov’s life was ending and he wanted to “bless” his children and grandchildren.  But blessing turned to criticism and sweetness turned to unpleasantness. The final moment of bonding between Yaakov and his sons seemed more like a catharsis than a blessing as Yaakov’s repressed feelings came out into the open. 

“Reuven! Your behavior in life has caused you to lose your royalty and priesthood!” (Rashi)

“Shimon and Levi! You have taken over the profession of your uncle Esav. You have become murderers!” (Rashi)

Yehudah and the rest of the brothers became so frightened by Yaakov’s “blessings” that they began to back away. Yehudah knew he was next as he recalled his relationship with Tamar. Yaakov saw he was frightened so he appeased him to return. (Rashi based on Medrash). 

Who can even imagine the pain of these precious last moments the sons of Yaakov had with their aged and holy father?

However, once we understand the deep mechanism of the soul we can understand that Yaakov was indeed ‘blessing’ his children.  By pointing out his sons weaknesses and challenges he was teaching them the purpose of their souls and helping them find their potential greatness. “Levi – you can become Pinchas!” Yehudah – you can become Moshiach! 

The tzadikim taught that the Satan appears to each person in the form of a personal weakness. “You’re bad at this!”, he says, “just forget about it!”

When this happens don’t be fooled! Your greatness and mission in life is being whispered into your ear. 

Dedicated in honor of the birthdays of Zvi, David and Binyamin Plotzker from their Ima (and our good friend) Judith Rose. We wish you only Nachas!

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