| A hiker in California was arrested for eating a condor, one of a
species close to extinction. The judge passed down a sentence of hard labor for
life. The hiker begged for a chance to tell the whole story to the judge.
"Judge, you don't understand! I'd been wandering lost for three days
without anything to eat or drink. I was losing strength fast. I happened
upon this condor perched in a tree. I killed it with my slingshot and ate
it. This gave me the strength to go on. If I hadn't eaten it, I would
have died in the woods and no one would have known about it."
The judge was so moved, that he suspended the young man's sentence.
Out of curiosity, the judge asked the hiker what a condor tastes like. The
hiker replied, "Well, it's a cross between a bald eagle and a spotted owl."
Deceit is something that is part of our society; Bnai Yisrael had
their hands full, as well, in dealing with the deceit of Pharaoh. "Let us deal
wisely with them." (Exodus 1:10.) Pharaoh wanted to deal wisely -- to
outsmart -- the Jewish people, and he knew that the only way to do so was
to lure them into servitude by first promising them the opportunity to be full
participating members in Egyptian society. Bnai Yisrael was promised the
stars, but gradually, Pharaoh changed the terms of the deal.
The Sforno, a prominent Italian commentary to the Torah, offers a
novel interpretation what Pharaoh meant by 'dealing wisely." He says that in the
beginning, the Egyptians (Mitzrim) did not want to enslave the Jews. Their
plan was to make conditions so bad that Bnai Yisrael would want to leave on
their own. The Mitrzim hoped that through appointing taskmasters over the
Jews, they would see that conditions were bad and then would certainly want
to leave Egypt. Special taxes were levied against the Jewish people, but
they still didn't protest. They didn't keep their sense of self worth, and
allowed themselves to be further degraded by the Mitzrim. It can therefore
be said that a lack of self-esteem played a part in our servitude in Egypt.
A lack of self-esteem can put a person into the position of making the
wrong choices, and eventually ending up in trouble. Over the years, I have
unfortunately seen many people who would have avoided several of life's
pitfalls, if only they had believed in themselves and understood their own
worth. There are a number of ways that a person can develop a stronger
sense of self esteem.
The first step is to try to begin to look at ourselves in a positive
light. Frequently, individuals who are doing extremely productive things
with their lives view themselves in a negative light. Someone once
mentioned that they saw a poster on a wall in a neighbor's home that was titled:
"The Most Creative Job in the World" The sign read: "It involves taste,
fashion, decorating, recreation, education, transportation, psychology,
literature, medicine, art, horticulture, economics, community relations,
pediatrics, purchasing, direct mail, law, accounting, religion, energy and
management. Anyone who can handle all those has to be someone special.
She is. She's a homemaker."
The way we look at ourselves affects the way others look at us, as
well. The Ohr HaChayim states that when Bnai Yisrael first came to Egypt under
the reign of Yosef, we were so proud of our heritage that the Mitzrim left us
alone. When Yosef died, however, Bnai Yisrael began to look at themselves
differently, that in turn caused the Egyptians to look at them in a less
positive light, which began the Jewish people's downfall.
Another suggestion to help people develop a healthy sense of self
esteem is to develop positive friendships with those people who can help us
develop a positive sense of self. Rav Yisroel Salantar, the founder of the Mussar
movement, used to say when he would see a little boy; 'vus macht ihr, in
the second person, polite form. He would not say vus macht du; in the
familiar. When a young child would be addressed by such a great man with this level
of respect, it was impossible that his self esteem was not immediately
The theme of last night's seder was: If we believe in the greatness of
the Jewish people; if we believe in ourselves, and if we believe in our
children, we're certain to succeed. I'd like to close with the story of a bubbe who
proudly presented her two young grandchildren to her friend. "Oh,"
remarked the friend, "they're so cute. How old are they?" The question brought the
definite response from the proud bubbe, "The lawyer is two and the doctor
May we all take these words to heart, and teach them to our children
at this evenings seder.
Good Yom Tov