Be a King

A person can not only control his emotions, he can also sublimate his emotions and raise them to
higher levels. Yaakov Avinu was reading Kriyas Shema when he met Yosef.
This has been interpreted in many ways. One is that, at that moment, Yaakov had
the most intense feeling of love he had ever had. He would never have such an
intense feeling again. Rather than directing that exalted feeling entirely
toward his son, he lifted it and directed it to G-d.

When we sublimate our emotions we turn them to higher
purposes. Rachel Imeinu was dying in childbirth, after having just given birth
to Benyamin. Her pulse was slowing down, her blood pressure was going down. She
was white and in a cold sweat. She was slowly fading from this world. Suddenly
the midwife tells her: “Rachel, don’t worry!” What would you expect her to
say after that? That she’s going to live, she’s going to pull through,
things will be okay! But that’s not what she said: “Don’t worry, it’s a
boy!” Is that what is on Rachel’s mind right now? She’s dying! Tell the
woman that she’ll be okay! But that’s not what would make Rachel feel good.
Her main purpose in living was to give birth to another one of the tribes. If
she gave birth to a boy, she fulfilled her purpose. If she gave birth to a girl,
she didn’t fulfill her purpose. Rachel was able to sublimate her feelings at
the time, and the midwife knew it, so she was eager to tell Rachel what she knew
would make her happy. Why didn’t Yosef say Kriyas Shema? Because there
is a mitzvah for the child to love his parent—it’s an aspect of the mitzvah
of honoring parents.

Some people find it hard to cry—especially men. But
sometimes a person can find himself shedding tears over nothing—over a story
he read, even though he knows that it’s just fiction. When that happens, when
for some reason something triggers your tears, direct them towards something
worth crying about. Remember the destruction of the Temple, remember the
Holocaust. Even if you can’t create an emotion, you can often direct it once
it arises.

This is the quality of Malchus—of being a king, for a true
king is a person who rules over himself. In the Kuzari, the King of the
Kuzars asks the chochom to describe a tzaddik-chassid. The chochom
says that a tzaddik-chassid is a person who can call his subjects
whenever he needs them. His subjects do what he wants, while he sustains and
gives sustenance to each of them according to his needs. When the King heard
that, he said to him, “I think you misunderstood me. I didn’t ask you what a
king is. I asked you what a tzaddik-chassid is.” “That’s
exactly what a tzaddik-chassid is,” the chochom replied, “only
his subjects are his emotions and the limbs of his body. Whenever he needs them
he can call upon them and they do his will, and he gives each one of them what
it needs.”

When Yehudah and Yosef were arguing over Benyamin, the other
brothers stood by the side and said, “Two kings are arguing with each other.
We shouldn’t mix in.” The Shiuri Daas points out that Yosef is
clearly a king, but over whom is Yehudah king? His brothers? Yehudah was a
family leader. He could hardly be called a king in comparison with Yosef. But of
course, he was a king and in the deepest sense of the word, for he ruled over
himself.

Everyone has the potential to be a king, to achieve the
self-control that makes him the ruler of his feelings. It takes strength and it
takes character, but it can be done! Once a person acquires self-control he
discovers a new level of freedom. A person who has real control of his feelings
can accommodate himself to difficult situations, can transcend and deal
constructively with hard situations which might defeat a person who didn’t
have self-control, for he is likely to be overpowered by the many negative
feelings that arise when the going gets tough.

The most dangerous thing that can happen to a person is that
he is so overcome by a negative situation that he sees no chance of renewing
himself: He feels completely overpowered. A person who lacks self-control has no
leverage on the situation in which he finds himself. It dominates him and can
overpower him. But when a person has self-control, he retains his inner freedom,
no matter what happens, and that inner freedom means that he has the potential
to rise above his difficulties, to take control, rather than be controlled.