I lie here under the covers though over there, just outside my bedroom window, the day is sunny and goes on as usual. My body is weary and motionless, though my mind is moving quickly and frantically; almost in a quest to make up for my body. I am running through criticisms in my mind; which one suits my behavior most: pathetic, unproductive, indulgent, weak, irresponsible? These words tear at me as I long instead for comfort and validation. I try to bring in a kinder and wiser voice citing the importance of listening to my body. Tug of war ensues; an all too familiar tug of war.
So I summon all my strength and manage to shove that critical voice down the stairs, positioning it outside the coat cupboard and bathroom. And, I tried to bring in words of care, comfort and compassion even as that harsh voice keeps shouting out its words from below.
Just the separation is a victory allowing me to witness the voice and the fear and cruelty that runs it. Fear: it simply does not want me to land up not accomplishing anything in this lifetime and lying in bed in broad daylight reminds this voice of someone I do not want to be. Cruelty: I am fighting infection in my mouth after major dental surgery and am wiped out. I am being attacked for my infallibility.
In this moment I realize yet again that my self-love and self-worth are so conditional; so tied up with what I do, what I accomplish in my day. Yesterday I was able to love myself more easily.
So I roll over onto my side and think I’ll try talking to G-d, to go on up high. And I say: “G-d, can you love me, right now, as I lie here in bed?” I feel like a little child turning to a genuinely loving father. And in that moment, I imagine the love and compassion I would feel if I saw my “grown” child lying before me in a tormented heap. G-d surely loves me, I think, as I break down crying. He doesn’t love me for what I do, he loves me. He loves my essence: beyond both the good and bad that I do. Fulfilling my mission and contributing to the world are important but G-d’s love for me is not dependent on it, and neither should my love for myself be either.
In this week’s parsha Tetzaveh Moses’s name does not appear but according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe his presence and quintessential self is felt even more so. In fact, the entire parsha is made up of G-ds words to Moses with the word “you” used instead of his name. The Rebbe explains that a person’s name is a more superficial handle of personality, but in the parsha Moses is present in a deeper more essential way than any name could possibly capture.
After the Jew’s sin of the Golden Calf, Moses pleaded with G-d for forgiveness, even asking that his name be removed from the Torah if G-d does not forgive the Jewish people. Moses wished to invoke the essential bond between himself and his people and thereby between G-d and His people, which even transcends Torah and the Jews’ fulfillment of it. Though G-d had given a job to the Jewish people, Moses is asking G-d to take a step back, to relate to them beyond the job description given to them. He is asking that G-d forgive them for the sake of their bond.
In my case, crying out to G-d and feeling his obvious overwhelming love for me gave me new perspective and allowed me to ease a little. It helped me to come a little closer to loving myself – no matter what – and accepting myself and my limitations. I am passionate about doing and about my mission. But my prayer is that just as Moses invoked the deeper bond that goes beyond, so too I can invoke the deeper bond with myself that transcends anything I could possibly ever do. That just as G-d loves me, I can love myself too.
Note: Torah insights taken from Chana Weisberg’s audio shiur “Losing Yourself to Find Yourself” on chabad.org