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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Feel the Wonder

 

As you read this, take a minute to imagine your next interaction with your spouse, child, parent or close friend. How will it feel? Will it be functional, as you faithfully discharge your responsibilities to those you cherish? Or will it be enthusiastic and alive, reflecting the deep gratitude, love and appreciation you've felt - and can still feel - for these very same people?
In practical terms: When I pick up my children from school today, will I be in middle of a phone call, focused on where I’m going after I drop them at home? Or will I be the parent who once stood in awe of a new life, and is appreciative of a fresh opportunity to honor the relationship? 
Whatever’s going on in my head at the time, we’ll both know the truth. When a person has a spring in his step, a quickened pulse, a sense of wonder and enthusiasm...it shows. When you're happy to do something, your demeanor and actions come ALIVE. You can’t hide it. And you really can’t fake it. 

This also applies to my Jewish practice: When I perform a Mitzvah, am I merely discharging responsibilities? Or am I joyfully laying another strand in the cable which binds me to my G-d, my people, my destiny? 
What message does my observance send to my family? When they see me practicing my Judaism, helping my parents, etc., do they see me carrying a burden or delighting in a relationship? By sensing where my excitement lies (and where it doesn’t…), what am I broadcasting to them about my deepest sense of priorities? 
Of course, it’s human nature to lose our sense of wonder as we become accustomed to someone or something. No matter how outstanding a relationship is, the excitement eventually settles. By nature, we eventually take our greatest blessings for granted.

But we can rise above human nature. 
If I believe in the deep value of a relationship, I need to be pro-active to make sure that it doesn’t dull. I need to consistently re-awaken my initial sense of awe and attraction. 
When I next see my loved one, I should bring myself back to the wonder of our relationship. I should let that awe take me over for a moment. And if I feel it, my demeanor will show it. 
The same applies to my Judaism. G-d cares about our lives. G-d cares about our daily struggles and achievements. What we do is important. So my - and your - next action can be cosmic. 

It may feel ho-hum, but it doesn’t need to be.
As I sit by my computer, I believe that my writing this little essay, my small attempt to brighten the world in my own way, is part of my destiny. That’s cosmic. And I’d believe the same if I were a dentist bent over a patient or a lawyer representing my client. If my actions are contributing to making this a better world, if they're consistent with a Torah attitude to life, if I’m living the destiny G-d set out for me, then I'm doing something monumental.

Your next interaction at home or in the office can be cosmic. And when you feel it, it’ll show. 

The Moses Method

So you’re thinking about 2019 and your mind opens to the reality that something in your life isn't working. You resolve to do better, and that feels good.

Except that you know change is difficult, because we're notoriously ingenious at outsmarting ourselves. 
Resolving makes us feel good, but effecting actual change usually hits some inner roadblocks. 
One common problem is described by ancient Jewish texts as ‘Pharaoh syndrome.' 
The Exodus saga – with the Jews gaining liberty from the enslaving Egyptians - is also a personal narrative. It depicts my/your continuous struggle for freedom from our personal 'Egypts' (behavioral traps and limitations). We each face our personal ‘enslavement,’ and our inner Pharaoh stands in the way of freedom.

So who is [our inner] Pharaoh? Scripture describes him as having a 'hard heart.' 
What does that mean in practical terms? 
Pharaoh understood that his actions were self-destructive and bringing ruin upon his country. He even fleetingly agreed to stop the madness. But he couldn't finalize change. Why? Because his heart just wouldn’t follow his mind’s vision. He knew what needed to be done, but he couldn't close the deal.
This is the internal 'Pharaoh,' stubbornly disregarding the healthy way forward and clinging to self-destructive behavior.
So, whence the salvation? 
Moses, of course.
Moses is described in our Scripture and tradition as a man of total, super-rational commitment. Brilliant as he was, he didn't guide his life by intellect alone. He felt a profound relationship with the Divine, and that's what guided his behavior.
Deep relationships – like the parent-child connection – have a deep, super-rational core, so we know what that feels like. Well, Moses directed that level of commitment to the vision of who G-d created him to be.

We can too.

The 'Moses method' is feeling a transcendent responsibility to G-d and personal destiny, not just logical calculation. And as effective as the 'Pharaoh Syndrome' is against logic, it’ no match for selfless commitment.

The ‘Moses method’ is a much deeper expression of your inner self, so it’s working a different wavelength. 
Here's the bottom line: Sometimes, life's richness is reached when we can step beyond the limitations of the mind, following the soul's lead and expression.
So when you resolve to change your behavior, see it as a part of your commitment to G-d, see it as an exercise of your relationship with your Destiny, see it as an expression of your very reason for existence.
Then see if excuses can block your way.
Pharaoh couldn't.

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