nd the servant ran to meet her.” (Bereishis 24:17)

Rashi says that Eliezer saw the water rise up toward her and therefore approached her.

The question arises: If Eliezer saw her merit a miracle then why continue testing her to see if she’d offer his camels water?

We learn that although miracles may have been performed for Rivkah that wasn’t sufficient to determine if she had good middos.

The [Vilna] Gaon writes the following on the pasuk in Mishlei (4:13): “Take fast hold of mussar; do not let it go. Keep it for it’s your life.” Man’s primary goal is to strengthen himself in breaking his (bad) middos. “If not” says the Gaon “what purpose does he have in life?”

That’s a strong statement. There are 613 mitzvos in the Torah each is eternity. We can’t fathom the Gaon’s greatness in Torah. So how do we understand his assertion that without breaking bad middos there’s no purpose to life? (Rav Elezar Menachem Man Shach Meirosh Amanah)

“We cannot imagine the power of our potential!”

The visiting lecturer was dynamic and I found myself nodding along with my colleagues mesmerized by her words.

“We are the elite of the elite! Teach your students that every mitzvah they do is holding up the whole world!”

Wow! What power. What responsibility.

Technically it makes no difference to Hashem how one slaughters an animal. The mitzvos themselves don’t add or detract from Hashem’s greatness as it says in Iyov (35:7): “If you are righteous what do you give Him?”

Rather Hashem’s goal in giving mitzvos is to benefit His creations. Seforim explain that Hashem doesn’t want the neshamah to receive “bread of embarrassment.” Instead it receives reward for its deeds in This World based on the internal struggle involved. (ibid.)

It was cold when I exited the auditorium and I thrust my hands deep into my pockets. Why do I always forget my gloves? Despite the chill I felt warmed. Snippets of the speech I’d just heard lingered. The power of a mitzvah. The elite of the elite. I was a mitzvah observer — and that was incredible.

As I quickened my pace hurrying to make my bus I barely noticed the woman approaching me her hand outstretched. “Hachnassas kallah ” she said softly.

I’m in a rush! My feet wanted to keep moving. My hands were still chilly and I didn’t want to start opening my purse searching for small change. I didn’t even know if I had small change!

And c’mon. One shekel’s not going to marry someone off. I’m in a rush and may miss my bus and keep the babysitter waiting. Why can’t I pretend I didn’t see her and keep going?

The desire to sin doesn’t come from the intellect; Hashem made our intellect straight and it’s clear there is a Creator there are Torah and mitzvos. The yetzer hara doesn’t attempt to get a person to transgress a mitzvah outright. Rather he attacks a person with a bad middah or lack of emunah which will cause him to transgress the Will of Hashem.

Take the example of tefillin. There’s no yetzer hara not to don tefillin; there’s just the middah of laziness that may cause laxness and that’s the battle. (ibid.)

Hold on a second. All my excuses are not going to change the bottom line. It’s not the mitzvah — it’s the middah.

We can be born to the best families and learn in the best seminaries. We can dress as yeshivish as possible and eat chaburah matzos.

But it’s the middos that count. And I want to be the type of person who has a hand and a heart that responds to someone else’s pain. I rummage through my wallet hand the woman a five-shekel coin. She smiles and I return the smile walking to the bus stop feeling invigorated.

Torah and mitzvos are the means Hashem gave us but they are not the end goal. They’re only tools to polish our characters perfect our middos and thereby emerge as complete people. (ibid.)

The job of working on our middos is so hard. It’s refilling the pitcher bending and pouring countless times. We get frustrated with the constant battle. “Look that’s just the way I am; I keep Shabbos keep kosher. Nobody’s perfect.”

But ultimately it’s the war of me against myself. And if I emerge victorious in the battle of the middos that’s what’s going to gain me entry into eternity.