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Sacrifice — the courage for one to give up something truly valuable for an ideal or a person outside of oneself — has become in our day an “endangered species.” In the minds of many it is a dirty word, conjuring up images of repression, dogma and abuse. Sacrifice is often seen as the arch enemy of the virtues that have become emblematic of our times—self expression, self assertion and emotional independence. Sacrifice, we are often told, is a crutch for insecure and co-dependent victims who eclipse their emotional dysfunction by employing the heroic myth of sacrifice.

It is obviously crucial to challenge forms of sacrifice that erode rather than affirm the quality of one’s life. Sacrifice that is feeding into abuse and tyranny is not a virtue. A beaten spouse or a crushed employee should not tolerate the immoral behavior of their spouse or employer in the name of sacrifice. Yet is it not possible that in our hypersensitivity toward the pursuit of individual liberty and the importance of self affirmation, we have deprived ourselves and our children of the vital awareness that to live means to sacrifice something of ourselves for truth, for G-d, for another human being, for your marriage, for your nation, for your values, for making the world a good place?

Nothing in the contemporary secular conversation calls on us to sacrifice anything truly valuable for someone or anything else. We have been taught to be nice and cordial, tolerant and respectful, to give five dollars to a homeless man in the street and to be sensitive to other people's feelings; but not to make real sacrifices that challenge our pleasures, force us out of our comfort zones and require profound and unwavering commitments. Yet when you do not need to fight for something, for anything, how do you learn who you really are? When you do not need to give up anything of yourself, how you do acquire the depth, dignity and maturity that comes along with sacrifice?

When you look around college campuses, educational institutions and even many yeshivos today, you wonder who is reaching out to the idealistic cords inherent in the souls of the youth? Who is giving them something they can fight for? Who is eliciting their inner depths, rather than their most superficial qualities?

When we live a life that lacks any sacrifice, our humaneness is diminished. We become more superficial, more timid, and more external. The entire book of Leviticus, dealing with sacrifices, is Judaism's way of stating that to live means to live for something.
An Altar In Tears

No area of society has been so profoundly affected by this void as the family unit. While in the not-so-distant past the family bond was considered something worthy to sacrifice for, today it is easily discarded when in conflict with one's personal comforts. Couples do not feel that the marital union is so great an ideal and so sacred an institution that they ought to make real sacrifices for it to work and blossom. If the love does not come easy, it is not worth the effort.

1700 years ago, the ninety-page tractate of Talmud legislating the Jewish laws for divorce, was transcribed. The sages of antiquity chose to culminate the book with these words:
“Whenever anyone divorces his first wife, even the Temple Altar sheds tears. As the Bible states, ‘You cause the altar of G-d to be covered with tears, with weeping and with sighing; so that G-d no longer turns to the offerings to retrieve it with good will from your hands. And you might ask: Why?—Because G-d has borne witness between you and the wife of your youth, that you have betrayed her, though she is your companion and the wife of your covenant.”

Why does a divorce arouse tears in the Temple Altar? The Holy Temple in Jerusalem had many pieces of furniture and vessels, like the candelabra, the table of bread, and of course the Holy Ark on top of which were carved the faces of a boy and girl gazing at each other, symbolizing the relationship between G-d and man. Why would they not shed a tear upon witnessing a divorce? Why was this unique to the Altar?

The explanation might be this:

The Altar was the place in the Temple where all the daily sacrifices of grain, wine and animals were offered. The Altar represented the profound but often forgotten axiom that a relationship with G-d demanded sacrifice and the giving of oneself and ones wealth. For centuries, the Altar has stood as a silent witness observing the depth and dignity characterizing a life of commitment and sacrifice. Day after day, the Altar internalized the truth that the path to self-realization leads through self-sacrifice.

When the Altar observes the consequences of a marriage in which the man and the woman did not muster the courage to make sacrifices for each other, it weeps for the greatest of opportunities forever lost. Who more than the Altar appreciates the truth that to find your own soul you must embrace another soul?

There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes divorce is a tragic necessity. When abuse and dysfunction pervade a marriage, and no remedy can be found, the right answer might be divorce. But in today’s age, many divorces occur not because of an impossible situation, but rather because of our unwillingness to transcend our egos, challenge our fears and transcend our selfish natures. For this, the Altar weeps.  

This simple truth so well known to the Altar has been forgotten by many. We are scared of making sacrifices, lest they deprive us of our personal happiness. Our self-esteem is so fragile that we desperately feel the need to protect it against any outside or foreign intrusion, lest it fade away into oblivion. But happiness is an altar. The more you give, the more you receive. The soul is most at peace with itself when it shares itself with another soul. When we give up on all forms of sacrifice, we deprive ourselves from reaching our deepest potentials.

This week’s portion invites us to ask this question: When was the last time I made a real sacrifice? (from Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson's  Essay The Dignity of Sacrifice)

     Not everyone values emotional honesty.  Not everyone has time to listen and the reality is that not everyone is capable of "hearing" and empathizing.  If you find that your shidduch dating experience lacks an empathetic listener,  perhaps you're looking for the wrong "personality type".  In fact, empathy is a rare quality which depends on one's personality type.  According to the Myers-Briggs personality system (see Please Understand Me, by Keirsey) people are either dominant Thinkers or dominant Feelers.  Thinking types (60% of men and 40% women) have little interest in the world of feelings.  They feel no urge to share personal feelings and are irritated and bored by those who do.  They are focused on functioning, not feeling.  Feeling types (60% women, 40%) men) are concerned with their feelings and distressed if they cannot share them.  When these two types get together, there is likely to be a lot of mutual frustration, because each has demands which the other cannot meet.

Without feelings, there would be no love, no music, art, poetry or meaningful prayer.  But to allow our feelings full reign is like giving the car keys to a three year old.  Learn when emotional modesty is needed and when not to "emote". 
It is best to inhibit the expression of feelings in the following situations.

1) When sharing will overwhelm others-e.g. it is "immodest" to share strong feelings of grief, fear or rage, especially around children and others who are incapable of receiving your pain with empathy and compassion.

2) When sharing feelings will exacerbate self-pity and despair.  Griping about problems may help people feel better for about fifteen minutes.  After that it's considered "co-rumination" and will actually lower the mood, especially if the problem has no solution.

3) When sharing feelings will lead others to think you are immature, naive, or unstable.  This is how most Thinking types view Feeling types.

4)When sharing feelings will cause others to use the information against you.

Let's get real.  Hoping against hope that the communication will get better if you look past his/her personality type, is wishful thinking.  Nothing will change their brain patterns or level of sensitivity.  As with all difficulties in relationships, use this for your spiritual growth and Be Proud of your Emotional Modesty, realizing that it is not always appropriate to expose your feelings. Turn it Around: Give yourself whatever it is that you want from this other person that you will never get, such as unconditional love, understanding, appreciation, praise and time.  Then get on with meeting your true soulmate  next time, iy'H.  (from Dr. Miriam Adahan's Essay, The Communication Trap,, September 15, 2008)

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