One sure way to make people avoid you is if you continue to live in the past and refuse to move on from a painful experience. Catching a cheating spouse will certainly garner sympathy, for example, but if it’s been years and the infidelity is still an on-going complaint, your circle of friends may whittle down to like-minded whiners. Even the Book of Ecclesiastes (3:1) urges us to move on. “To everything, there is a season” can be seen as a Biblical exhortation to “go with the flow.”
Many Jews, however, recite daily the “Six Remembrances,” one of which is to “remember the day when you went out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:3). For starters, I already have enough on my plate in the morning. Besides, we do this anyway at great length during the Passover Seder – so why ruminate about it daily?
In Va’eira, God tells Moses the four ways that He will redeem the Jewish people. So redemption is not a one-step process. Exiting the narrow spiritual confines of Egypt paves the way to go towards the expansiveness of connection and service to God. Leaving negativity is not an end unto itself but a precursor to embracing positivity.
Nor is redemption a once and done event but rather an inquiry and reflection into the false mental constructs that enslave us for our entire lives. If you are having trouble making the positive changes you want for yourself and your relationships, it may pay to look at each component of the 4-step redemptive process as described in Va’eira:
Commit to Stopping.
This refers to God stopping the hard labor. While the Ten Plagues occurred over a period of time, before the Jews leaving Egypt, the physical burden of slavery came to an end.
Select a negative behavior you want to shift that is challenging but doable. State your goal in the positive. For example, instead of saying you want to stop yelling at your kids, you would say that you want to show more patience and love. And you have to genuinely full-out commit to stopping the unwanted behavior and not repeating it. (Of course you won’t be 100% perfect, but you can’t merely be paying lip service to this.)
If you find yourself, however, unable to stop repeating old patterns, honestly check whether you have placed a high enough value on the change you want to see. How important it is and what would be possible for you and your relationships if the troublesome issue were handled? What could you “be” “do” or “have” in your life if you made this change? How would you feel? Take the time to imagine this as being real for you.
Avoid temptation and come up with an if/then strategy.
This refers to God taking us out of the very land of Egypt. If you can avoid the place or circumstances that tempt you, you should. Weight Watchers has a great saying to help people avoid buying groceries that contain forbidden food items – “Don’t bring your enemies home with you.” But seriously, the key to adopting any new behavior is having a strategy for dealing with what inevitably gets in the way. Take time to think about the obstacles that trip you up – both externally and internally? Think about the ways you give yourself permission not to honor your goals, and how you justify yourself. And then make a plan, such as – if that thing happens to you to derail you, then what will you do or say to yourself overcome it?
Look under the hood.
This refers to the deeper levels of our mental schema. It’s one thing to take a Jew out of Egypt but quite another to take Egypt out of the Jew. The Jewish people had to be rebuilt from the ground up, to unlearn the internal constructs of slavery, “upgrade their operating system” and to understand what it means to be truly holy.
“Fake it till you make it” is a methodology whereby if you keep doing something externally, eventually it will become a valid internal reality. I’ve never had much luck with that. If you are having real difficulty in realizing your goals, you may need to get to the root of the hidden beliefs and the fears that are blocking you. Unless you tune into the whispers of your inner voices, you can get very frustrated and not even know why. So having trouble with making a positive change doesn’t mean you are a loser or incapable of change, but that you need to figure it out, and I stand for the proposition that it’s all figureouttable.
Step into your higher purpose.
If you saw the movie The Matrix, when the humans finally won the war against the machines, they all broke out into a frenzied delirium of physical gratification. And then what was supposed to happen? Freedom is not the same as a free-for-all. God’s purpose in taking us out of Egypt was to give us the Torah and create a new relationship between man and God.
On my desk sits a framed quote by Thoreau: “Be not simply good; be good for something.” As you incorporate a new positive change in your life, it’s not a stand-alone idea. If your goal was to be more loving in a relationship, then see how many different ways you can make a person feel cherished by you. Look for the means to broaden and share your process and purpose. Allow it to evolve into higher and higher goals. Create a vision. Live with purpose. Make a difference.