Vayeshev – Under Achievers

In this week’s Haftorah for the Torah portion of Vayeshev we read from the Book of Amos. Amos, rebuking the ten tribe of Israel, says: “And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel? But you made the nazarites drink wine and commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy’” (Amos 2:11, 12).
The Ibn Ezra says that Hashem, through Amos, is telling Israel: “I also placed My Spirit on your children and they gave prophesy in order to teach you my statutes. ‘Sons’ are mentioned for if and elder sage would give prophecy no one would be impressed. The pasuk also mentions young men, who from birth enjoy all sorts of pleasures and happiness, I made them holy to rebuke you and make you holy. How can you deny this saying I didn’t do this?” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
To attain the Holy Spirit of Hashem resting on a person, in order to give prophesy, is not a simple task. It takes going beyond the mastery of all the levels of perfection described in the Sefer Mesillas Yesharim. It  is quite impressive, whether it is attained by a young person or an older person. It would also seem that Hashem endows His holiness upon people who choose to separate themselves from mundane pleasures (like grapes and wine and being clean shaven with a nice hairdo), along with not having any contact with the dead. This special holiness that Hashem bestows on a nazir should be unique, whether given to a younger nazir or an older nazir. So why does Amos go out of his way to specifically describe how the Israelites denied the children and young men of prophesy or the nazerite? The Ibn Ezra says in pasuk 12 that ‘they would force them until they defiled their bodies with the dead and drank wine.’ No matter what age they were, the message is that Hashem is sharing his loftiness with those who earn it, and there were people who were actively trying to dissuade this lofty state from being in existence in order so that it won’t make a positive impression on them. Wouldn’t such lofty heights, such awesome levels, such intense spirituality, make an impact, whomever it came from?

However, in truth, the message is clear. The people were lacking an appreciation of what someone could achieve. If they truly appreciated the levels and heights a person can achieve in holiness and spirituality then they would change themselves and strive to grow closer to those heights, and the biggest impression of this lesson is that even the young, those who have so much going against them to achieve these lofty heights, are able to attain them.  And therefore don’t deny this possibility;  Don’t actively degrade these achievements. If you can come to appreciate them, you will become capable of making changes in your own life, and repenting from your evil ways.

People have the tendency to underachieve and to not appreciate true success. When they see it in others they try to squelch it and ruin it, not realizing that if they were to take a step back and analyze what others have done, they can potentially reach the similar if not the same heights. We must always strive to grow, to achieve, to be lofty, and look around at other who have done the same and learn from their success stories.