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Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5780

Ein Ayah: It is Fine to Feel Insulted

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:83)

Gemara: Those who are insulted and do not insult, who hear their disgrace and do not respond, act with love [of Hashem] and remain happy through afflictions, about them the pasuk is said: “And those who love Him are like the sun as it emerges in its strength” (Shoftim 5:31). 


Ein Ayah: There are moral guidelines whose nature is to weaken the power of life. This is not the desired manner of true completion of the person that we should embrace according to the Torah of life, which comes from the light of He Who lives forever. The highest personal attributes, which emanate from a holy source, are those that are full of the vigor of life. They are full of the power of human spirit, with its grandeur and fullness, and it is specifically the light of sanctity that refines them and gives them their glorious charm.

The gemara does not refer to one who people insult and he does not feel insulted. That would include people whose spirits are so downtrodden that they have been effectively killed. Such a person may not feel enjoyment when he is honored, and his feeling of pain when he is disgraced is dulled.

[For a person to reach such a lowly state] is not the approach of the Torah. Rather, one’s soul should be strong, and he should have the full vigor of life. The positive feeling from honor and the natural pain over disgrace should be a full part of the spirit a man has built for himself. This should be to the degree that is proper for a person who has the tzelem Elokim (likeness to G-d) within him. The tzelem Elokim in a person’s soul is what gives him his honor.

The proper response is that despite the clear feeling of insult, still his feeling of ethics and love of his fellow person, even of a person who acted improperly toward him, is so strong that he does not insult in kind.  He should actually use the great pain that his spirit feels from the insult, to stop his instinct. He does not want to inflict on others this same pain that he feels, including on the very people who insulted him. This is the bravery of sanctity of life.

Just as there is awakeness of the spirit and dullness of the spirit in the matter of feelings and reacting to insult on the emotional plane, there are also various levels of sensitivity on the intellectual plane. There are those who hear their disgrace, i.e., hear it intellectually and recognize the content, which penetrates his mind. Each type of inflammatory statement, even the most subtle one, can be used by all sorts of cruel people to damage their subjects. Praiseworthy is one who does not respond, due to the greatness of his spirit and the sanctity of his thoughts.  

Such people, with a sharp emotional state and a glowing thought process, are capable of containing within them the sweetness of love and the ability to take it to the highest levels of sanctity. These are people who act with love. They feel the pleasantness that those who possess the most developed physical and spiritual feelings feel. They feel all the pain of afflictions in all its bitterness. No stab that they experience evades their grasp of life. Nevertheless, they remain happy through the afflictions, as they know that the afflictions are agents of the merciful Hashem, who is good and does good, and leads the world with kindness. He raises His creations up and polishes their soul from impurities so that they can give them the great light of absolute truth.

The pasuk says about such people: “Those who love Him are like the sun as it emerges in its strength.” These are people who love Hashem without being weak in life and in strength. It is not like those who look like they are modest and have good attributes, but really react based on weakness rather than love of Hashem. It is one who acts out of love who is like the sun in its strength; the sun has heat and glow and gives life and light, making things grow and give blessing.     

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