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Entries in lack (1)


Authenticity is not "Take Me as I Am." 

A well-known Midrash (Sifri Devarim 343:) recounts how God took the Torah around to all the nations to offer it to them.

Each one asked "What it is written in it?" and when they were told,  'You shall not murder.' 'You shall not commit adultery.' 'You shall not steal.', Esau, Ammon and Moab, and Ishmael respectively all replied  'Master of the Universe, it is in our nature [to do those things], therefore, we cannot accept Your Torah.'

And thus with all the nations of the earth, until finally God came to Israel and asked them: 'Will you accept the Torah?' They said, 'We will do and we will obey.' (Exodus 24:7).

I'd like to read this Midrash through the frame of two important keywords: Authenticity and Lack.

In the conversations with the nations, each nation felt that the Torah's commands would compromise their authenticity. It is in our very nature to do those things, so we cannot agree to it - we would simply not be us without that.

That was how they viewed it. But actually, the opportunity God was presenting to them was to hold up a mirror to their faces and show them that, in fact, these traits and actions they were clinging to were not their true authentic nature, and that on the contrary, these sins and indulgences masked a חסרון - a lack, shortcoming or flaw, that they did not wish to face.

Rather than confronting their shortcomings, the nations preferred to proclaim, "Look that's just me, take or leave it." So they could not even take the first step on the path to change and growth.

Authenticity does not mean just being who you are now. It means working to sense who is the greater you, and moving towards that with everything that you are. It is not standing still; on the contrary, it IS growth.

Our lacks and flaws, the Hasidic masters tell us, are the gateway to our service of God. If we can't handle seeing them, we can't even start.

Israel, that stubborn, downtrodden, complaining people, did one thing right: they said, we are willing to take a look at our shadow side, and grow from there.

Anyone who is willing to step into the service of God through their lacks, can receive the Torah. Anyone who isn't, can't.

* With thanks to Naama Menussi, in whose shiur this insight arose (February 2016 ).