Choose to Shine
Do you feel stuck? Perhaps you are in a dead-end job, or your life situation makes you feel trapped. Do your days and nights gel together in endless repetition? Is it sometimes hard to even get out of bed in the morning? Do you feel bored most of the time? You do not have to feel this way forever.
Everyone feels stuck sometimes. It is a natural part of life. We get into our routines and wonder where the time went and why we are not getting closer to our life goals, if we even had time to create them in the first place. It’s ok to feel this way sometimes, but it can be a problem if someone feels this way a majority of the time. Living life as a monotonous burden can impede joy and fulfillment. If you identify with this feeling and hope for better days, I have good news.
This is the season of Pesach, and there is deep meaning and beauty in this holiday. Beyond the basic story of Hashem delivering us from slavery there are parallels to the struggles described above. We did not only leave physically. Before Hashem brought us out, we were steeped in the impure lifestyle of the Egyptians. Practices which are taboo even now in the year 2021 were common in ancient Egypt in pursuit of pleasure. They were experts in fulfilling the demands of their animal natures. So what’s wrong with seeking unbridled delights and just having tons of fun?
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, says that the very first bite of ice cream tastes delicious. The more you eat, the more accustomed you become and the less fully you enjoy it. The only way to truly experience the best possible pleasure is to take control of yourself and indulge only a bit. It sounds counterintuitive. Yet I believe this speaks to the basic clash between the physical and the spiritual, or the battle between gratification and happiness. Learning to rein in our desires creates true joy.
That is an important message of Pesach. We seek and destroy any crumbs of chametz, a metaphor for physical pleasure. We eat matza, the bread of affliction, spiritual nourishment. The focus is what we need versus what we want. By learning to control ourselves we become happier and purposeful.
So how do we begin to live with meaning rather than seeking elusive pleasure? The first step is to recognize that we want to make a change. Write down what you want and psych yourself up. Involve others for accountability. If you feel overcommitted at work or in your community, learn to say no. It is not your job to please everyone. Setting boundaries is important so you can have more time for yourself and be there for others on your terms. Learning to communicate this is key.
Next, know your own power and your own voice. Never grant the power to others to make you feel good about yourself. You have the innate ability to feel worthy and loved. You matter. You were created for a reason that nobody else in history can achieve. Feel the majesty of your own soul and develop your connection to Hashem. He is there for you in every situation, in every moment of your life. Yes, He has many demands of you, but he is also your Father who loves you beyond your ability to comprehend. Speak to Him in your own words and ask for His help. There is no one better to lighten your load and help get you to a good place.
Make a conscious decision to view life with a positive outlook. This will improve your mental health as well as your physical health. Avoid cynical, negative people. They are toxic, especially if you are feeling down most of the time. By deciding to smile and choose happiness, your life will improve quickly. Seek the good in every situation and know that Hashem runs the entire world. Make the decision right now and take one positive step to end your own personal slavery to the immediate desires of your body, and take charge of your life to become truly free.