Director: Neshama-la, thank you for coming in today. We created a few new roles and I have one in mind for you.
Neshama-la: Intriguing; what kind of new roles?
Director: Instead of one major challenge, the characters have several major obstacles to overcome. The roles require the character to thrive in the midst of challenge. It’s going to require some creativity on the actor’s part to maneuver through the scenes.
Neshama-la: Whew—sounds like a tall order. Where do I fit in?
Director: A lead role in one of the new plays. With your poise, concern, and your inner strength, I believe you can develop the role beautifully.
Neshama-la: Really? I’ve only been a supporting actor—helping the lead through his or her crisis. My favorite part was the time I helped my friend through her challenges, praying for her, and finding work or apartments when she needed those things. I’m comfortable with those roles.
Director: I’ve noticed that about you. As a person, you’re a great listener and you intuit what the other person wants. When you take on the supporting role, you bring those qualities to the stage – and you do a great job!
Neshama-la: Yes, that’s who I am. I much prefer to support rather than lead.
Director: I hear that. But I believe you can do more.
Neshama-la: I really don’t know that I can take this on at this time.
Director: Think about this. Do you recall how you coached the lead as she looked for work? Do you recall how frantic the lead was about not having a job and you gently, skillfully, guided her through? You explained the spiritual and physical outcomes in terms she could understand.
Neshama-la: Yes, I that’s true. But how does that make me ready to take a lead now? Especially a lead with multiple challenges?
Director: I’ve watched you. You’re adept at maneuvering through a script. Your ad-lib skills are sharp. You know when to be kind and when to assert yourself. In short, you’re up for this.
Neshama-la: Just because I did it in that coaching role doesn’t give me the confidence to take on a lead.
Director: But there were other supporting roles that you developed adeptly and the character grew. Don’t you remember?
Neshama-la: Are you referring to the time I played the woman who steadfastly supported her friend through her troubled marriage?
Director: Yes. What do you remember about that role?
Neshama-la: The friend character was angry and frustrated because her husband did not provide financially or emotionally. She felt G-d was against her and that the world was not a safe place.
Director: Go on.
Neshama-la: All I recall is that I listened. She was still angry.
Director: But never at you. Why do you think that was?
Neshama-la: Possibly because I always gave her safe space to speak. I provided different types of support, depending on her need.
Director: And you were careful not to bad-mouth her husband. You empathized with her. You often laid awake re-playing scenes as if you were her and how you’d respond. You got into her head. You really cared.
Neshama-la: So was it as if I was playing the lead while being the support?
Neshama-la: I just don’t feel I can make the transition to lead.
Director: I know you can take it on. Remember, I’m the Director! But I understand your hesitation. I have a broad outline of the play. Why don’t you review that? Then we can meet in two days and discuss it in more detail. Is Thursday at 10:00 AM good for you?
Neshama-la: Of course, whatever is good for You. It’s unusual that You’re letting me think this over.
Director: I know. Director’s prerogative! See you on Thursday.
Director: Welcome, Neshama-la. Thank you for coming back. What do you think?
Neshama-la: I’m still concerned about the role. What did you mean about developing my creative side as I interact with the other actors on stage?
Director: As you know, although we have a script, all actors ad lib. Many of the actors in this play are challenging personalities. I’m sure, for example, the angry father will take that role to an extreme. You’re not comfortable with confrontation. Or the stubborn child will really play to your soft side!
Neshama-la: Oh, no! Angry and stubborn actors? That’s really not for me! What if I slip? What if I can’t creatively respond to the angry actor in the moment?
Director: I’ll be here to guide you.
Neshama-la: Hmmm. I noticed some other points in the outline that I’d like to understand. The lead has many struggles with finances, relationships, and health – and some of them simultaneously! How am I going to balance those? I don’t think I have the inner strength to make the character feel real.
Director: Let’s review a role in a recent play, and maybe that will help you see that you’re ready. Remember when the lead’s husband died suddenly? What did you do?
Neshama-la: I cried for her, for me, for all of us who were close to him. I prayed for her to have strength to go through that test.
Director: But you did more…
Neshama-la: …You mean when I dropped my obligations and flew out to be with her? I couldn’t possibly have let her go through that alone. I held her hand and supported her.
Director: Was that all?
Neshama-la: Nnn…no. When I knew she needed financial help but was too proud to ask, I hired her to do some work for us that we needed.
Director: So you protected her dignity while ensuring she had what she needed.
Director: And how were you were able to do that?
Neshama-la: Because it was similar to the coaching role I played and I built on that.
Director: Yes. And…
Neshama-la: My ability to intuit and move into the role needed?
Director: It’s time to switch the roles, Neshama-la. You need this role to see how strong you really are. You need the role to develop that creative side of you. And you are the one who can show others how to walk with dignity in the face of incredible challenges.
Neshama-la: But what if I really can’t handle the pressure of all those challenges at the same time? What if I can’t switch to being the lead? What if I forget my lines? What if…
Director: …you want to give up?
Director: You won’t. You’re built of strong stuff. I’ll make sure you rehearse some potential scenes before you go on stage. That way when you get on stage you feel at ease.
Neshama-la: But we won’t be able to cover all situations. What if I make a mistake and the character fails?
Director: If the character makes a mistake, or “fails” as you said, you’ll figure out how to pick her up and move forward. That’s part of the character’s development. I’ll provide all the costumes, make-up, and the basic tools you’ll need for the role.
Neshama-la: I guess if You’re going to provide everything, I can take this on.
Director: Yes! I’m here to guide you. Always. If you doubt yourself at any point, look inside, look up – I’m here!
Neshama-la exists through the special door reserved for actors who are assigned extraordinary roles.
Epilogue and sources
“Each newborn is like the lead actor walking onto the stage precisely on cue to play his part. If he misses his cue or stands in the wings crippled by stage fright, the play will not unfold as it should. Each individual’s unique role is essential in completing G-d’s creation and in glorifying His Name.”
—The Power of Teshuvah, p. 66, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman
According to the Chida (Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai), a soul is shown a celestial video of what her life on earth will be, and the soul agrees to the role. [Heard from Reb. Raizy Rottenberg, 2013.]
Regarding the woman’s soul, the Alshich says that Hashem (G-d) dialogs with the woman’s soul, providing her a “heads up” of her spiritual mission and how to accomplish this mission. [Tehillim 45, verse 11, heard from Reb. Racheli Miller, 2013.]