Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Word from the Director: Pesach 2011


That is the theme of Pesach. What is freedom? We see rebels in countries around the globe fighting for freedom. Is that true freedom? What happens once they become free? Do their lives really improve? For most people freedom means the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want. Freedom is a lack of restrictions and often a lack of structure. So how can we truly feel free, as “bnei chorin,” if as shomrei Torah and mitzvos we have chosen to adhere to a lifestyle that has many added responsibilities and extra restrictions? The question our children ask us, and we may even ask ourselves at times, is “why?”

As many of you know, I am a substance abuse counselor who believes strongly in the “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Step program is a spiritual way for an addict to hand his unmanageable life and his will over to
G-d, and to ask G-d for direction and guidance. In return, a relationship is created with frequent self-evaluation and constant contact with that Higher Power.

For the record, it doesn’t only work for drug addicts and alcoholics. We all have some unmanageable element in our lives. For some it may be an addiction to drinking, smoking, or food. For others it’s our jobs where we find ourselves putting in far more hours than we spend with our family. Perhaps there is an anger management issue, or maybe we are perfectionists. For most of us, there are areas in our life which are unmanageable. The premise of the program is that we believe that all of our troubles are our own making. It comes from a certain level of self-centeredness; we feel that we are in charge of everything. We have everything under control. But when one comes to terms with that fact that not all aspects of our lives are “manageable,” we start to realize that maybe there is Someone greater than us who takes care of us and is controlling the world.

We have to stop trying to “play G-d.” We must come to the realization that we need help managing our daily lives and must therefore improve and strengthen our relationship with Hashem. We have to decide that from here on in Hashem is going to be the Director and we are His actors. He is our Father and we are His children. Yes, that sounds like Rosh Hashana, but the principle applies here as well! Once we truly accept this then all sorts of remarkable things follow. Our all-powerful Father in Heaven provides what we need if we stay close to Him and do our best to perform His Mitzvos. Bearing this in mind, we will become less preoccupied with ourselves and micromanaging our lives, and more interested in seeing what we can contribute to the lives of those around us. As we become conscious of G-d’s presence, we begin to enjoy peace of mind, and we discover that we can face life on its terms and be better prepared to accept the challenges that come our way.

We pay lip service to the fact that Hashem runs the world and He makes sure we have what we need. But how many of us work 60-80 hours a week with little time for anything else? How many of us get angry and blame ourselves when our children aren’t living exactly the lifestyle we would have chosen for them? What are we showing by acting that way? Is Hashem in control, or do we still think we are in charge? We actually do believe that Hashem is in charge, and deep down we want Him to be in control, but we vacillate. Often we want Hashem there when we need Him, but otherwise we are ok seeing Him in shul on Shabbos.

“Ain lecha ben chorin ela mi she’oseik ba’Torah- the only one who is free is one who is involved in Torah.” Why? Because just like we didn’t know how we would cross the Yam Suf, or how we would eat for 40 years in the desert, we need His help to raise healthy Shomer Shabbos kids in Los Angeles in the year 2011. We want somebody to take care of us and be in charge, otherwise life often doesn’t make sense. Following the Torah and doing Mitzvos is our part in the relationship.

And that, my friends, is true freedom…

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

No comments:

Post a Comment