How I Discovered the Secret to Freedom (Just In Time for Passover)
Today, I discovered the secret to freedom. Let me explain…
Have you ever asked yourself when you’re worried about something, what it is that is actually worrying you? Meaning truly and deeply?
Have you asked yourself what is it that you feel you will have to endure or experience if said thing does or does not happen? Of course, sometimes, like when one is fearing, G-d forbid, a negative diagnosis, this would equate to a painful or seriously concerning set of circumstances. But many times, when we are worrying about something, such as something not going our way, we don’t pause and think, how bad would it actually feel if it happened?
I was having one of these moments today. I was notified about a particular (potential) problem with something I was counting on, and I began worrying and being upset that the outcome would not be in my favor; that the situation would not go the way I’d like it to or had hoped it would. And as a result, I sat their stirring and stewing about it.
But then I decided to try something. I have been working on my positivity lately, so I thought, no, I’m going to be happy right now either way and not worry. So I smiled, in order to cultivate the happiness I was trying to manifest. And you know what? For a moment, it worked. I wasn’t so worried and I realized I was happy with whatever.
And I realized something. I realized that even if it doesn’t go the way I want, and I choose to still be happy…then what am I worried about?
Many worries, at the end of the day, are fear of potential disappointment. Sometimes we are so worried, that we don’t even realize that what we are actually worried about is worrying (or similar emotions, such as a feeling of general upset).
If however, we are choosing to be happy at every moment, to be positive, then the worry is really nonexistent. If I am happy no matter what, whether it goes my way or not, then what is there to fear?
This is where my Passover insight comes in. In this moment (this brief and fleeting moment) where I truly felt happy and unconcerned about the outcome of my potential problem, I felt so free. I felt like, nothing can hurt me. If I am choosing at every moment to be happy, what can bother me? How can something going wrong be that bad, if even when it does, I am still happy?
This is how I realized that positivity is the ultimate freedom.
As Passover approaches, I’ve been thinking about what I am a slave to. (At the seder, we are all supposed to see as ourselves, as we have also gone out from slavery to freedom. This is why people focus on their personal slavery and their path to freedom, this time of year).
While there is actually more than one answer, the one standing out to me now, is my emotions. And more specifically, a false sense of succumbing to them. In other words, if at any particular moment, any particular situation can generate a negative emotion in me, I am not at all in control of myself or my feelings. I am a slave to my emotions (and to life’s circumstances). If however, no matter the situation, I choose to be positive, to be happy, then I am free.
And on top of that, when we feel positive and happy, we actually feel more free. We feel looser and less constrained. Happiness is liberating.
And this is how I discovered the secret to freedom. It’s positivity. But not just positivity: the choice to be positive. Knowing that you can’t be burdened by the feelings of sadness or anxiety no matter what, that you will choose to be happy and positive steadfastly, is such a release…that it is the ultimate freedom.
Things I Say To My Daughter…That Teach Me About G-d
This is my new series all about how being a parent truly does help us to understand G-d’s ways. Let me explain. It has been said that G-d is like a parent to us; a loving Father. It is also said, that being a parent enables us to understand this role Hashem (G-d) plays in our lives. A lot of times a mashal (parable) is used to explain this: a child goes with his father to the doctor. On that day, the doctor needs to give the child a shot. The child starts crying and looking at the father like, “Why? Why would you let this man hurt me?”
Two ideas are usually taken from this. One is that, of course while the child thinks the father is doing something seemingly bad for the child, the father knows that this is actually good and what the child needs. Second is that, after the shot, the child goes right back home with that father, taking his hand to walk back to car, without any seemingly new level of distrust. On some level, the child understands that the father did what he did to protect him and will continue to do so. This is also what we understand of Hashem. That while at times we don’t understand why things are happening to us, Hashem has our best interest in mind.
Well, with all of that said, I continue to see how as a parent I say things to my little girl, that help me better understand G-d and His Ways. Stay tuned to see how…
Practical, Bite-Sized Ways of Infusing Spirituality into Sukkos
I don’t know about you, but I love Sukkos. It’s just one of those pleasant and enjoyable chagim, without much stress or burden. The pressures and weight of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are behind us, and Sukkos offers us a time to enjoy many festive meals in a fun, branch,covered hut! With that in mind though, so much cooking, decorating, and schlepping mattresses back and forth, might leave one forgetting to hone in on the spiritual essence that surrounds us. Since it’s hard to remember we are involved in a spiritual holiday when we are so focused on heating up the chicken and setting the table, I thought I’d lay down a few simple, practical tips for infusing spirituality into Sukkos.
Tip #1 Quiet Time to Connect
One of the beauties of Sukkos is that you get mitzvah points just for partaking; just for eating, drinking, sleeping, talking and sitting in the Sukkah. Cha Ching! Even so, trying to have the right mindset when doing so can further our connection to Hashem and the holiday. Pick a time, ideally on the first day of Sukkos and go out to the Sukkah when no one else is in it. Sit down, close your eyes, and think about how at that moment, your sitting is a means of connection to Hashem. Then bring that thought into the whole year. We are taught that one of the meanings behind the Sukkah is to tell us that just like the mundane activities we take part in while in the Sukkah become elevated, so too, all of our seemingly mundane acts in life can be conduits for connecting to Hashem. If you can take a moment to sit in the Sukkah each day and remind yourself of this, you will be on your way to spiritually infused Sukkos.
Tip #2 Beautify Yourself
The concept of hidur mitzvah, is especially significant on Sukkos. We are meant to make our sukkahs beautiful with decorations and our lulav and etrog are to be carefully chosen and picked for their specialty. Therefore, we too are meant to be beautiful on Sukkos. There is a mitzvah, as there is before all yomim tovim to buy new clothes. When getting dressed, beautify yourself in a special and different way than other days of the year. When doing so, remember you are doing it for the purpose of hidur mitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah, and enhance your Sukkos by enhancing yourself. (Now how’s that for an excuse for primping!)
Tip #3 Work on your Character
One of the coolest aspects of Sukkos is the Ushpizin, or special guests we have in our sukkahs each day. The Ushpizin are the seven founding fathers of the Jewish people, and as such they are said to join us in our Sukkah on each of the seven days. These supernal guests are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and King David. Each day corresponds with the character trait they most possessed, and as such, on “their day” this character trait is easier for us to access as well. Try to tap into the “character trait of the day” on Sukkos. They are as follows: day one – chesed and love, day two – discipline and inner strength, day three, truth and harmony, day four – endurance, day five – empathy and humility, day six – connection, and day seven – leadership.
#4 Practice Joy
Sukkos is known as the “Festival of Rejoicing.” The sukkah symbolizes our complete and total trust in God, as we dwell in an impermanent home lacking the full protection we are used to during the rest of the year. In this way, we hand ourselves over to God and say, “Here, here are my worries, anxieties, and fears. You Hashem take the reigns. I trust You.” What a load off! On Sukkos we learn how to trust, and when we no longer have worries or fears, what is left but happiness? Since it is a commandment to rejoice on Sukkos, we must make a real and deliberate decision to show up to our festive meal on the first night without the accompaniment of our usual anxious thoughts. We must make every effort possible to leave them at the door, and step into Sukkos with nothing but joy and trust. It is through our trust in God that we experience a Festival of Joy!