Did you ever hear of Timna? She was an extraordinarily outstanding biblical personality who had private conversations with each of the patriarchs. Timna was authentically religiously motivated – designated by the Sages as having true Yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven). Yet, she became resigned to history at best with anonymity, and perhaps with ignominy.
Timna was a princess in the biblical Horite Dynasty. She deeply desired to convert to the Abrahamic religion. She visited Abraham and he denied her that opportunity. She waited several years and then went to make the same request of his son Isaac. Following his father, he turned down her request. Timna then proceeded to ask the third patriarch to convert her. She requested from Jacob that he let her join the nascent Jewish people. He also demurred.
Timna maintained her yearning to associate with the People of Israel. She renounced her royalty and engaged herself as a concubine to Eliphaz, son of Esau and grandson of Isaac. She explained that she was so desirous of connection to the Nation of Israel that it was more preferable to her to be a lowly concubine in the house of Esau, wayward son of Isaac, rather than a princess to the Horites (Talmud Sanhedrin 99b).
Timna’s about-face is mysterious. Imagine a young American man who was motivated to join the Israeli Army. He was inspired by the Jewish people returning to their homeland after two millennia in exile, surrounded by enemies and fighting the odds. He reached out to the IDF recruitment office, and they politely refused his application. He was disappointed, but had tremendous resolve. He contacted them the next year and they again denied him that opportunity. He was slightly discouraged, but reached out a third time to the recruiters. They still did not allow him to join the Israeli Army. Yet, he still craved a bond with the dream of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. So, as a last resort, he enlisted with the Palestinian Authority. He explained that it was better for him to have some relationship with the Jews in Israel instead of completely abdicating his dream!
Timma was no different. She so desired to connect to the Patriarchs and then ended up consorting with the archenemy, the malignant and belligerent house of Esau?
Timna set a laudable goal. When she encountered roadblocks, she consoled herself with the belief that she was continuing her lofty aim. Her plans were unfruitful and she altered her destination, but she maintained the identical passion, desire, and motivation that she originally had. Unknowingly, she had crossed the line, with her expression of deep yearning now directed toward ignoble goals. She convinced herself she was getting closer to the patriarchs. In reality, she joined the enemy.
There might be a bit of Timna in all of us. We can aspire to goals that are significant, lofty, and important. Sometimes, it becomes evident to us that these goals can’t be met. It can be painful to admit that we need to adjust our aims or reorient our targets. If we do so, it might mean coming to terms with the fact that we failed or made mistakes. Instead, we might surreptitiously change our objectives, but not allow ourselves to realize that we made an adjustment to our original plans. This defense against accepting reality and changing with it can stymie and stifle us, our satisfaction, productivity, and happiness.
It can be exceedingly difficult for us to navigate life journeys. Unknowingly, we can follow paths that we had set, even after they go awry. It is sometimes significant to recognize that different situations arise that might requires new approaches, new strategies, and new goals. Although adjustments can be difficult to swallow, they can result in the long term satisfaction that can come from being more aware of one’s situations and realities, and the goals of being honest and truthful to oneself.
Timna renounced her royalty and her reality. She abdicated her throne, and with it, her honestly to herself. Part of us wants to join Timna. Perhaps we can allow ourselves to see our reality, and with it, discover our own internal royalty.