The pressure principle

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Do we need security and comfort to do well in life? Do we achieve more when we are relaxed and comfortable, or when we are challenged and provoked?
by Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Sydenham Shul | Nov 23, 2017

And Jacob left Beer-Sheba and went to Haran. Beer-Sheba represented peace and tranquility. Haran stood for violence and immorality. It was the hub of tumult and turmoil, home of Laban the swindler and sheep-thief of note.

Yet, ironically, it was there in Haran where Jacob raised his family. There in Haran were the twelve tribes of Israel born and bred.

Abraham had a wonderful son named Isaac, but he also fathered Ishmael. Isaac bore the pious Jacob but also had a ruffian named Esau. Only Jacob is described as “select of the forefathers” because his children were all righteous, his “progeny was perfect”.

Asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe, would not Beer-Sheba have made a better place for Jacob to have raised his children? Would not Beer-Sheba have been the ideal hothouse for the future Jewish people to be conceived and nurtured? Why, of all places, in Haran?

Says the Rebbe: The olive yields its best oil when pulverised. To produce gold, we need a fiery furnace where the intense heat on the raw metal leaves it purified and precious. Jacob did not have an easy life, but it made him a better man and it made his children better children.

Life isn’t always smooth sailing. But it appears that the Creator in His vast eternal plan, intended for us to experience difficulties in life. Evidently, we grow from our discomfort and challenges to emerge better, stronger, wiser and more productive people.

There is always a purpose to pain. As the physiotherapists tell us (with such compassion that I want to hit them!): No pain, no gain. It would seem that, like the olive, we too yield our very best when we are under pressure.

I don’t know about you, but I need to see a deadline staring me in the face to really get myself motivated. The simple fact is that we produce best under pressure.

In fact, one of the reasons we use a hard-boiled egg on the seder plate over Pesach, is to remind us of the festival offering brought on Yomtov. But, the truth is that any cooked food would do, so why an egg?

One of my favourite answers is that Jews are like eggs. The more they boil us, the harder we get. We have been punished and persecuted enough, but it has only strengthened us, given us courage, faith and hope. And no matter where in history it has happened, we have always emerged from the tzorres of the time more tenacious, determined, and stronger than ever.

Jacob raised a beautiful family in less than ideal conditions. Please G-d, we should emulate his example.

Wherever we may be living and in whatever circumstances, may we rise to the challenge and live successful lives and raise happy, healthy Jewish children who will build the future tribes of Israel.


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