On Paragons

I recently heard a speaker give an inspirational talk about doing better, aspiring higher, etc. She referred to someone in her life who had great difficulties and suffered more than most people, yet she declared, that was always smiling and never complained.  My rebellious internal  response, was that sounds most admirable but beyond human capacity. We even see that such paragons as Moshe, as well as the avos and immahos  had their moments when they were, shall we say, not smiling.

(It's possible that this person was careful never to show a feeling of misery around others, as in the story of a rabbi who said he suppressed his crying when his mother was around and only let himself go -- as a baby yet -- when she would not hear).

We see multiple instances of great people having difficulties and not remaining calm. There were points at which Moshe lost patience with the complaints and rebellions of the people he had to lead.  Rachel had an altercation with Yaakov, who responded fairly harshly.  Leah expressed her own resentment to Rachel when her sister asked for the flowers that Reuven gathered. Yaakov gave Lavan a piece of his mind that showed he did feel resentful for all the difficulties he endured in his father-in-law's employ. The fact that the Torah reveals all this to us shows that even they had moments when they got overwhelmed. That does  not diminish from their greatness; on the contrary, it shows that even those who feel that way can can achieve the pinnacle of spiritual heights. I find that more inspiring than hearing about someone who never, ever cried out because I simply can't relate to it.

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Princess Lea said…
If a baby cries and no one hears, did he make a sound?

How would they know if he cried only when his mother wasn't around if no one was around?
Ariella Brown said…
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Ariella said…
I can't recall the name and so can't find the source. But the way the story goes, he recounts it from memory. He recalls that he would suppress his cries in order not to upset his mother. But as the neighbors heard him when she was not at home, they told her. I believe that he said he really would have had to have suppressed his crying altogether to achieve what he wanted. However, even someone with that great kind of control still felt the impulse to cry at some points.

So in the case of the paragon who never expresses anything but happiness, I would wonder if it really was the result of keeping up appearances at all times in front of others because even amazingly spiritual people sometimes feel less than happy.

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