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But I Have To...

11/23/2018 12:22:43 PM


Who is in control of your life – you or someone/something else?

Are you a Yaakov or a Yisrael?

This week’s Torah portion Vayishlach recounts when Yaakov’s name was changed to Yisrael.

Yaakov comes from the root word ‘ekev’ which means ‘heel’. He received this name because when he was about to exit his mother’s womb first, his twin brother Esav grabbed his heel, pulled him back, and came out as the firstborn.

Yisrael comes from the root word ‘sarisa’ which means ‘triumph’. He received this name after he fought valiantly against his physical and spiritual enemies and was victorious.

Yaakov is a victim paradigm - when you can be pulled and pressured by the Esav’s in your life. Yisrael is a master paradigm - when you can assert control over your life.

As descendants of his, we can choose to be either a Yaakov or a Yisrael.

Do you control your thoughts, enabling yourself to choose to reflect positively on things, or are you controlled by your thoughts, which often lead to thinking negatively pessimistically?

Do you control your time, enabling yourself to decide how to use your time wisely and effectively, or are you controlled by your time, finding yourself pulled in many undesired directions that lead to being less productive and less intentional?

And the list can go on and on…

The four words which may help answer this question are: Have you ever said, “but I have to…”? If you have (and who hasn’t…) this might mean that you live in a Yaakov paradigm.

When someone asks for your help and you respond, “I wish I could, but I have to… [do something else now, or be somewhere else now],” what are you implying?

Firstly, we often imagine that we ‘have to’ do something or be somewhere ‘right now’, but very often it simply isn’t true. We know this because when we were unable to ‘do something or be somewhere right now’ the world didn’t end, and nobody lost out. So perhaps we need to reevaluate how we perceive our assumed duties.

Secondly, even if it is true that we ‘have to’ do something or be somewhere ‘right now’, our choice of language is very telling. Whether it’s a meeting, or carpool, or shopping, or whatever, is it that we ‘have to’ do it, or that we ‘want to and choose to’ do it? A ‘Yaakov’ has to do things; a ‘Yisrael’ chooses to do things.

Yaakov is driven be external motivations and the expectations of others; Yisrael is driven by internal motivations and expectations set by oneself.

How apropos that we are called Bnei Yisrael – Children of Yisrael, and not Bnei Yaakov – Children of Yaakov!

Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784