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Under Any Circumstances

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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 32:4—36:43, and the Haftorah is from Obadiah 1:1–21.

The Haftorah for Vayishlach is taken from the book of Obadiah. Obadiah, contained in one chapter, is a prophecy against the nation of Edom and describes her downfall at the End Times. The Jewish sages teach that Obadiah was a natural choice to prophesize against Edom for two reasons: First, because he was “one of them” and understood their shortcomings all too well; and second, because Obadiah was the antithesis of Edom’s great ancestor – none other than Esau from this week’s Torah reading.

Esau had the privilege of growing up in the holy home of Isaac and Rebecca. He had perfect role models in his parents and was given a loving and nurturing upbringing. According to Jewish tradition, Obadiah, on the other hand, grew up among the depraved Edomites. After converting to Judaism, he lived with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel – arguably the most wicked king and queen ever to rule Israel. (See 1 Kings 18:3–16.) Esau, in spite of his envious upbringing, ended up living an evil and immoral life. But Obadiah, despite the evil influences around him, remained righteous and good.

By examining the lives of Esau and Obadiah, we learn that while our life experiences definitely affect us, we are ultimately responsible for the paths we choose in life. We cannot control what happens to us in life, but we can always control how we react to those events.

This reminds me of an age-old story that about a daughter who complains to her mother about the circumstances in her life. In response, the mother boiled three pots of water and added a carrot to one, an egg to another, and coffee beans to the third. After a half hour, the mother tells her daughter to take a look.

Each of the three items had been placed into the same situation– boiling hot water – but they all reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, but came out weak and mushy. The egg went in soft and fluid, but came out hard and unyielding. The coffee beans were unique. They used the boiling water to become something better – a delicious cup of coffee.

The mother then explains to her daughter that for every circumstance in life, we choose the consequence. We can let our circumstances weaken us; we can let them harden our hearts; or we can use them to become better. Obadiah chose to become better.

How do you react to life? Are you more like the carrot, the egg, or the coffee beans? Do you let the circumstances in your life bring you down, or do you use them as a springboard to reach higher? The choice is always ours.


With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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