Mission Impossible?

Mission Impossible? 2017-05-26T18:46:19+00:00

It is my pleasure to present to you this article that was published in the internationally read Nshei Chabad Newsletter. Below is the unabridged version:

Mission: Assigned

An important assembly was taking place in heaven. Each angel stood eagerly waiting for his turn to receive his mission. G-d turned to one angel and began: “You will be Malach Michoel. You will be responsible for nurturing, assisting and supporting the Jewish people.” He turned to another angel and said, “You will be Malach Gavriel. You will be in charge of fighting the enemies of the Jews.” To a third He said, “You will be Malach Rephoel – healing the sick.” The tasks were given out in this manner to many more angels, until He turned to the last one and announced, “You will be the Satan.”

The puzzled angel inquired, “Satan? What is that? What do I have to do?”

“Ah,” G-d replied. “Your job is to make trouble.”

“Trouble? What do you mean?”

“You will go down into the world and do everything you can to make the Jewish people fail. You will put obstacles in their way, imposing upon them nations who will oppress them and make Torah life difficult, you will bring tragedies into their lives, and strike them with disease, famine and poverty.”

“You really want me to do that?”

“Yes. You can be as creative as you wish.”

So the loyal angel got to work. He went down into the human world and began to wreak havoc on its inhabitants. A while later, he returned to Heaven, frustrated and discouraged.

“What’s the matter?” asked G-d.

“I can’t carry out my mission anymore.” Satan replied.

“How come?”

“The Jewish people got to know me. They started to realize who I am and what my agenda is. So they warn each other to stay away from me and not be affected or weakened by what I do.”

G-d pondered this problem and came up with a solution. “I will give you a new look. When you go back there, you will be the Yetzer Hara.”

“What’s that?”

“Instead of causing destruction from outside, you will cause trouble from the inside. You will cause them to be angry, jealous, lustful, greedy and fearful. You will separate the Jewish people from each other and from me.”

The Yetzer Hara went down, eager to please, but he resurfaced a while later.

“What happened now?” asked G-d.

Yetzer Hara looked defeated. “I don’t know… They are making these gatherings that they call farbrengens. They alert each other about me, saying that I’m the same Satan causing trouble from within. They support each other so they can detect me and stay away.”

“Okay. This time we’ll make it really hard for them to recognize you. You will be called Yeshus. Do everything you can to make them feel arrogant and proud of themselves. They will consider themselves so superior that they will look down on each other and stop advancing in their performance.”

Yeshus went down, reinvigorated, and was quite successful. Alas, his success did not last.

He came up to Heaven once again and complained furiously, “They’re still conducting those terrible farbrengens. They got more sophisticated in tracking me down. Now they warn each other not to be self-centered and conceited. They help each other to make what they call cheshbon hanefesh – an authentic self-assessment, leaving me totally dis-empowered.”

“I have such a good idea,” G-d said determinedly. “This will really make it hard for them to recognize that it is you again.”

“What is it?”

“You will be poor self esteem!”

“What does that mean? What do I have to do?”

“You will go down again and make them feel not good enough. Make them feel unlovable, make them think that they don’t have what it takes, make them compare themselves with each other and get each one to think that the other is better or has it better. Just make them feel inferior. They won’t even imagine that it is you this time. They will be taken over by an uncomfortable, unhappy feeling inside and think it is their problem. They will become insecure and inefective.”

“I think I got it!” said Satan, and he went on his way to do his job. Since then Satan has not returned to complain before the heavenly throne. He is busy separating people from themselves, from each other and from G-d.

Mission: In Action

How? Here are some true examples that I’ve encountered:

* A 17 year old girl looks in the mirror and all she sees is some extra pounds. She feels so ugly and unlovable. She avoids phone calls from friends inviting her to a farbrengen. Instead, she withdraws into her lonely sadness.

* Shluchos come to the annual Kinus Hashluchos and listen to stories of success from their peers. They watch videos of outstanding accomplishments at other Chabad Houses. When they come home some of them feel depressed; how can they go on? They feel inadequate. There is so much they did not accomplish, they should have done this better and that better, and if only… then they would do so much of a better job. It is an inner conversation that drains them of their simchas hachayim.

* A young bochur finds himself in an unexpected encounter in camp that leaves him feeling confused and very uncomfortable. He can’t delete the memory from his mind. He feels shame and guilt, he feels low and impure. He has no one to talk to and his self-critical thoughts deplete him of self respect. He puts himself down and rejects himself, alone in his harsh, unyielding self judgment. It becomes harder for him to concentrate on his learning, and farbrengens no longer touch and inspire him. No one understands what happened; how did he lose his interest in Yiddishkeit?

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do it right? Look at me, why would anyone want to go out with me? Why would anyone hire me? Why aren’t my programs as good as everyone else’s? I don’t matter that much anyhow. These are thoughts that reflect one of the most common human plagues of our generation.

In the course of talking and working with all kinds of people, I observe how often we walk around with an inner question mark that doubts our self worth. This painfully consistent question mark, whether more conscious or less conscious, often runs our lives and significantly compromises our freedom of choice and our true joy. Some people react to this feeling by withdrawing and giving up so many precious things that make life delightful. They avoid bonding and fully investing themselves in close relationships. They deprive themselves of a chance to express themselves in various areas of life to ensure that they don’t fail. Others become compulsive about doing everything perfectly. They experience tremendous stress before almost any project or task that they take on. They believe they have to worry about not forgetting any detail and sometimes experience fears and anxiety. Such people cannot enjoy what they’re doing until it’s over.

The Precious Treasure

Let us take a look at the Torah’s perspective on this matter: The Torah contains detailed guidelines and instructions for fulfilling our mission in this world, to carry out the Divine plan of turning the world into G-d’s most desired dwelling place. Just prior to embarking on this most challenging journey, at the foot of Mount Sinai, G-d instructs Moses to talk to the Jewish people and tell them:

“You shall be for me a seguloh from among the nations” (Exodus 19:5). Rashi, in his commentary on this verse, interprets the word seguloh as a precious treasure that a king hides away.