Article

The answer is painfully simple: There is a real self, and there is a superficial self. The real self is pure, wholesome, and even holy. The real self would never do anything to hurt anyone. The superficial self, on the other hand, can act apathetically, or worse, cruelly, as it usually has a big ego. So why do sometimes allow the superficial self to demonstrate itself? Why do we allow it to eclipse the pure goodness within each of us?

Rabbi Allouche

Imagine this:

You behaved nastily to a friend and you now feel terrible about it. So, you ask for forgiveness and you say: “I am so sorry about what happened. I really don’t know what came over me. I just wasn’t myself today…”

Your loved one forgives you, and even expresses sympathy and understanding, and hopefully, life moves on.

These scenarios happen all the time to mortal beings. But what does it mean that “I was not myself”? Are we schizophrenic? Do we live a dual life?

The answer is painfully simple: There is a real self, and there is a superficial self. The real self is pure, wholesome, and even holy. The real self would never do anything to hurt anyone.

The superficial self, on the other hand, can act apathetically, or worse, cruelly, as it usually has a big ego.

So why do sometimes allow the superficial self to demonstrate itself? Why do we allow it to eclipse the pure goodness within each of us?

Perhaps, the most basic answer is because we sometimes cease to view ourselves as utterly good beings, created in the image of G-d, who are called to fulfill our unique, Divine purpose, and charged with a mission to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in the ways of G-d” (Micah, 6:8).

In the year 1792, King Louis XVI of France was captured, dethroned, and imprisoned. His young son, the prince, was exiled to a faraway community. There, they exposed the prince to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer, in an effort to demoralize him and erase any memory of his royal status.

They exposed the prince to delicacies, that would make him a slave to his appetite. They exposed him to promiscuous behaviors that would make him a slave to his lust. They exposed him to foul words and fluctuating moods that would make him a slave to his anger.

For over six months he was given this treatment, but not once did the young prince buckle under pressure. Finally, they questioned him: why had he not submitted himself to these luring temptations and seductions? What was holding him back? With exemplary calmness and profound dignity, the prince replied: “I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king.”

This week, we will be celebrating the first of the month of Av which marks the beginning of the “nine days” in which we commemorate and mourn some of the greatest tragedies in the history of our people, including the destruction of both Jerusalem temples on the Ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E., and the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.).

As we strive to transform this era of hatred and darkness into a period of love and light, let us see each other as great souls, with unreserved love and unhindered faith. Let us remember, now more than ever, that we were born to be kings and queens.

Our superficial selves, and the excuse of “oh, I really wasn’t myself today,” will then surely exist no more.