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Striving for Spiritual Greatness

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The vision of Obadiah.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom

We have heard a message from the LORD: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, "Rise, let us go against her for battle." Obadiah 1:1

The Torah portion for this week, Vayishlach, which means "and he sent," is from Genesis 32:3-36:43, and the Haftorah is from Obadiah 1:1-21.

Nobody wants to be mediocre. Every child wants to be the smartest, the most popular, and the best-looking. As we get older, we want to live in the nicest house and drive the fanciest car. No one is happy with being just average in the material and physical aspects of their lives. So why when it comes to our spiritual personas, do we settle for less?

When it comes to spirituality, most people are greatly lacking in ambition. We are content to be a "good (enough) person." We don't steal or murder, and we are generally nice folks. We may even pray and study God's Word, and attend church or synagogue on a regular basis. But is that enough? If we are motivated to be the best that we can be in all other areas of life, why should spirituality be any different?

Why would we settle for being mediocre when, if we pushed ourselves, we could become a spiritual giant?

This is one lesson we learn from Obadiah, whom we read about in this week's Haftorah. The book is the shortest book in the Old Testament. In its 21 verses, Obadiah prophesied about the destruction of Edom, a nation that had consistently harassed Israel. Interestingly, Obadiah himself was born an Edomite. He could have lived his life in Edom as a relatively righteous person, but that wasn't good enough for Obadiah. He wanted more. He wanted to rise to the highest spiritual levels possible.

Obadiah's name means "servant of the Lord," and that is exactly what Obadiah became. Obadiah worked for God's purposes, and he struggled to achieve the spiritual level of becoming a prophet. He joined the children of Israel and upheld the words of the Torah. But it wasn't always a clear and easy path.

According to Jewish tradition, Obadiah had become an advisor in the court of the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who ruled Israel at the time. Despite his dark surroundings, Obadiah continued to search and grow spiritually. In fact, while the king and queen were hunting down God-fearing scholars, Obadiah hid 100 of them and supported them with food and oil so that they could keep on learning. The Jewish sages explain that for this great deed, Obadiah was granted prophecy. The man who could have remained a "nice guy" his whole life ended up a prophet and spiritual leader immortalized in the pages of our Bible!

We should never settle for spiritual mediocrity. This week, let's consider where we can push ourselves to be better in our spiritual lives. Can we pray or study more? Are we working on our relationship with God? Can we be kinder, more charitable, or more active in God's purposes?

Never settle for "good enough" when we, too, can become one of God's greatest!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President


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