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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 5 May 2017 05:10 PM and ends Sat 29 Apr 2017 06:16 PM
ב' שבט ה' אלפים תשע"א
Shabbat Parshat Bo
There are two items guaranteed to make the newspapers every year on the 1st of January: the obligatory picture of a newborn baby, delivered just after midnight and a puff piece detailing the weird, wacky and wonderful resolutions that people undertake in anticipation of the New Year.
If you think about it, these two stories are actually polar opposites in the cycle that is life. A baby represents all that is pure and fresh; a bundle of newborn potential filled with endless possibilities. However, over time, we grow old and jaded, mistakes and indiscretions litter our diaries and we quickly lose confidence in the path that lies ahead. The reason people make new resolutions is because they are dissatisfied with their lives to date and wish to begin again.
In fact, we experience this dual cycle on a daily basis. We wake up every morning excited and renewed; enthusiastic about the possibilities that lie ahead. We have every expectation that the day before us will be crowned with success. Rarely, however, are these hopes fully realised. We get some things right, but fail in others. We get back up again, only to be knocked down once more. At the end of the day we look back at the mistakes we’ve made and the opportunities we bypassed and resolve to do much better, tomorrow.
There is a similar ebb and flow throughout the business year. There is a time for expansion; starting new projects and opening up new markets, while other stages in the cycle call for stocktaking and consolidation. Setting aside time for reflection and learning from past mistakes is not dead time, but invaluable for future growth.
Similarly in our personal lives; we marry with a sense of unbridled optimism and full confidence in a future of shared happiness. Yet it behoves even the most successful of couples to undergo an occasional bout of introspection and self-reflection about the strengths and sins of the past and the challenges to their relationship that lie ahead.
We’ll read this week about the Jews of Egypt leaving slavery for freedom. The sages pointed out that in reality the Jews did not deserve to go. They had no merits, no credits, no claim for fame or proof of pedigree. They’d been slaves for decades; worshipping the false gods of their masters and not one of them had ever done anything for Hashem or spent even a moment thinking about anything truly spiritual or G-dly.
However, right before they escaped, Moshe instructed them in two commandments and by fulfilling those they justified their release. 1) They circumcised themselves and 2) The head of each family prepared a sacrifice for the Pesach Seder.
These two mitzvos are representative of the two stages of life that we have been discussing. A bris is done to a newborn, starting him off on a life of religion and commitment. The Paschal sacrifice, by contrast, is prepared by adults and is an integral part of our foreswearing idolatry and renewing our relationship with Hashem.
On a personal level, we are constantly called upon to ‘leave Egypt’ and escape from that which would imprison our hearts and minds. When we find ourselves trapped in a rut; struggling to break free, we must remember these paradigms of behaviour and utilise them in our escape.
Never be afraid to start again. Strike out in new directions and volunteer for new projects. The new you deserves a fresh beginning. However, with all your enthusiasm for the task that lies ahead, don’t be afraid of your past. Self-reflection and introspection help us to learn from previous mistakes and resolve never to repeat them.
Only when we can operate on these two fronts; fashioning our new identities while overcoming the errors of our past, will we truly be free.