Minute #630: Either/Or

Daniel never seemed satisfied with his own performance. No matter how well he did on a test, no matter how good others felt he was, he always had a negative comment focusing on his shortcomings.

There once was a Rebbe in Russia who sent out messengers to find a beautiful etrog with which to perform the mitzvah. In a year when the crop wasn’t so good, he was surprised by one of his agents who returned with the perfect etrog. Careful inspection verified that on all counts this was the perfect example of what an etrog should be. The Rebbe declined the offer to buy it and continued looking for another. When asked why he refused the perfect specimen, he asked to see it again. He exposed a fine needle that was holding the broken pitom (tip), which invalidated it for the mitzvah.

The word went out that the Rebbe had ruach hakodesh — holy communicative powers with Heaven. He explained, “I don’t have any special powers. The reason I inspected further was that the etrog seemed perfect but it’s a fact that nothing in THIS world is perfect.”

People with low self-image are frequently good people by objective standards who are frustrated by their inability to meet lofty goals. Since they are not perfect, they consider themselves as failures.

Traits vary on a broad range of quality from bad to good. It’s not “either I am perfect or I am bad.” When a weakness in oneself is discerned, the proper course is to focus on self-improvement, not to conclude one is a complete failure. See the good and work on the bad is the formula for success.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

It is worthwhile to explain to children about various behaviors that are commonplace in the street, stressing that they are beneath us inasmuch as we are “people of Torah” and we are the “princes” of the world.

Such behaviors include crude mannerisms of speech and slang expressions, inappropriate styles of dress and a variety of low-class activities such as sitting on a fence, eating in the street, shouting through the streets and the like. (Rabbi Yehuda Ades, Pathways of Life, Part Two: “Parenting,” p. 60)