D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Comparison is the shortest route to insanity.
According to social comparison theory, people judge themselves by comparing their abilities and opinions with others around them. In other words, we establish our personal self-worth based on how we stack up against others. While it’s normal to wonder how we measure up to other people, and while comparing ourselves to others is part of human nature and can provide one with inspiration, these comparisons can also set off feelings of inadequacy and failure.
In this week’s Torah portion Lech Lecha we are introduced to Abraham and Sarah whose travels at God’s urging take them from Haran to Canaan. After God asserts on several occasions how Canaan will be given to Abraham and his offspring, Abraham questions God’s declaration. What’s the point asks Abraham, of bestowing on me this land when I have no offspring? God assures Abraham he will have an heir but Sarah in the meantime hatches a plan of her own. If I can’t give Abraham a child she ponders, perhaps my maidservant Hagar can do just that by becoming Abraham’s concubine.
The plan works but as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Not having thought through the implications of her plan Sarah is not, to say the least, overjoyed at Hagar’s pregnancy. Feeling insecure and jealous, וַתְּעַנֶּהָ שָׂרַי וַתִּבְרַח מִפָּנֶֽיהָ, Sarah lashes out against Hagar and Hagar runs away.
In comparing herself to Hagar, Sarah finds herself lacking which leads her to act unreasonably towards Hagar. Comparison after all, is the shortest route to insanity.