D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Circumstances do not make us who we are, they reveal to us who we are.
In life attitude is everything. We all go through difficult times or find ourselves in difficult situations in which we are faced with hard choices. How we respond and the decisions we make during those difficult times and situations exposes much about our character.
This week’s Torah portion Ki Teitzei records a long list of laws pertaining to a variety of settings and situations that include family relationships, work, sexuality, and daily living. In one example, the Torah instructs,
כִּי־תִֽהְיֶ֨יןָ לְאִ֜ישׁ שְׁתֵּ֣י נָשִׁ֗ים הָֽאַחַ֤ת אֲהוּבָה֙ וְהָֽאַחַ֣ת שְׂנוּאָ֔ה וְיָֽלְדוּ־ל֣וֹ בָנִ֔ים הָֽאֲהוּבָ֖ה וְהַשְּׂנוּאָ֑ה וְהָיָ֛ה הַבֵּ֥ן הַבְּכֹ֖ר לַשְּׂנִיאָֽה: וְהָיָ֗ה בְּיוֹם הַנְחִיל֣וֹ אֶת־בָּנָ֔יו אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־יִֽהְיֶ֖ה ל֑וֹ לֹ֣א יוּכַ֗ל לְבַכֵּר֙ אֶת־בֶּן־הָ֣אֲהוּבָ֔ה עַל־פְּנֵ֥י בֶן־הַשְּׂנוּאָ֖ה הַבְּכֹֽר:
If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved and both have borne him sons, he is not allowed to treat the son of the unloved wife who happens to be the older son, with disdain. He must give him what is rightfully his as the first born son. (Deut. 21:15-16)
If a father favors his younger son over his older son, he is confronted with a difficult decision when it comes to the rights of that older son --give him what is rightfully his or deny him what is rightfully his. Whatever decision the father makes will have nothing to do with the circumstance in which he finds himself but will instead reveal much about the father’s character. Circumstances do not make us who we are they reveal to us who we are.