I recently asked a young man if he would like to undertake a particular mitzvah. His reply, "It's not my cup of tea," caught me by surprise. It made me wonder if we are limited to a pre-determined direction, or if we are really capable of more.
If life were a chessboard, would you be a pawn who can travel only in one direction? Or would you be a queen, who can strike out in the direction of her choice?
Angels are unidirectional. Their characters are molded by G-d into single,
pre-determined profiles. They must remain on those predetermined tracks and are
incapable of lateral movement.
Some angels serve G-d in love. Others serve G-d with joy. Angels who love are
incapable of joy and angels who rejoice are incapable of love, unless they
"borrow" from each other.
A loving angel who wants to worship with joy must borrow joy from a joyful
angel. A joyful angel who wishes to pray with love must borrow love from a
loving angel. The same holds true for every angelic characteristic.
This is why the prophet describes angels as stationary.
The angel cannot abandon its post and take on a new position unless it is
externally motivated. It is capable of tremendous devotion and spiritual
passion, but it is incapable of moving away from itself. Of doing things in ways
that are different from the nature imparted to it by G-d.
The Mobile Soul
Are we different? Are we confined to those mitzvahs that we deem "priority?"
King Solomon refers to the Jewish people as G-d's bride. If G-d is the king,
then we are his queen. On the
chessboard this means that the Jewish soul is capable of multi-directional
Fundamentally we are each unique. We each have our own characteristics and
prefer our own path of worship. Some Jews are meditative, others reflective.
Some are joyful, others loving. Some like to study, others to act. Our paths are
unique to ourselves, but here is where we differ from angels: angels cannot veer
from their characters, we can.
The prophet describes the soul as mobile. It is
capable of lateral movement. Though we each have a favorite beginning place--a
mitzvah that our nature most prefers--we are
also able to act in ways that are not inherent to our nature. We are capable of
performing those mitzvahs that are not our "priority."
We are capable of all mitzvahs despite our preference for one of them. We can
choose any path of worship, even those that are not indigenous to our
The astute reader will ask, "Souls may be able to perform outside of their
comfort zones, but can they thrive? Should we not rather perform with alacrity
those mitzvahs that we do enjoy, than perform with reluctance those mitzvahs
that we don't enjoy?"
To answer this question, it would be beneficial to consider the twelve sons
of Jacob, the root of our nation. These twelve men were the father figures of
our people, and each imprinted his family and offspring with the unique strains
of his character.
Just before his passing, Jacob blessed his sons. Each son received a blessing
consistent with his character of spiritual worship. Judah was blessed with
leadership and strength, Issachar with diligence and scholarship, Zebulun with
commercial success, etc.
After Jacob blessed each son individually, he repeated all the blessings to
each of his sons. Why did he do that? What benefit could the others derive from
blessings that did not address their own aspirations and strengths?
Jacob wanted his children to enjoy all forms of spiritual worship, not only
those consistent with their individual characters. He wanted them to engage in
all mitzvahs, not only those within their natural comfort zones.
Jacob therefore offered individual blessings first, to inspire them towards
those mitzvahs that were synonymous with their personalities. Then he granted
them comprehensive blessings, to engender a genuine enthusiasm for all mitzvahs,
even those inconsistent with their personalities.
Brew Another Cup
The answer to our earlier question is, yes, we can thrive outside of our
comfort zone. The differences in our spiritual consistency today is derived from
the unique characters of Jacob's twelve sons. Jacob's blessing, which enabled
his sons to transcend their limitations and enjoy all manner of spiritual
worship, endows us, too, with that wonderful ability.
All Jews, regardless of background and level of observance, are equal heirs
to Jacob's blessing. No mitzvah is beyond our potential. Every mitzvah can be
our "cup of tea."
A professional tradesman today is, due to Jacob's blessing, able to study
Torah with total devotion and concentration. A Torah scholar today is, when
necessary, able to leave his studies and raise funds for charitable causes with
total sincerity and joy. Every mitzvah is available to every Jew. Not only to
perform, but also to enjoy.
The next time someone tells you, "It's not my cup of tea," go out and brew
another cup. Urge him or her to try it and say that it's a new flavor. Say that
it's the flavor of our forefather Jacob.