“Everybody has superhuman physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual strengths, way beyond what they think.
“You hear stories to this effect all the time.
“A person is pinned under a car after a bad accident. Ordinary bystanders somehow lift the car and free the passenger. If you would have asked them beforehand whether they could lift a car, they’d roll their eyes and say, of course not.
“But they lifted the car!
“They did it.
“So, who is the real you? The person who couldn’t lift the car, or the person who did lift it?
“Was your act of lifting the car a one-time exception to the real you, or was it the real you?”
Rabbi Hershel Berger of Chicago told me that he heard this question from the late Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz (1902-1978).
Of course, one can extend the question.
People do all kinds of things they never thought they could: They battle and defeat a very serious illness; they survive the loss of a loved one they said they could never live without; they write a profound book or patent an invention or found a company — but if you would have asked these people years before they did any of things, whether they thought they ever would or could, they’d all say no way.
So, who is the real you?
I shall elaborate on the question in two ways: first, with Rabbi Shmuelevitz; and second, with Abraham our Patriarch.
Was “the binding of Isaac” an exception in Abraham’s life, or was his trek to slaughter his son the real Abraham; and if the latter, how was it a strength? But first, Rabbi Shmuelevitz.