Va’eira: Why Making Redemption a Daily Habit is Good for You

imagesOne 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 seasoncan 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:

  • I shall take you out from under the burdens.”

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 and expect it to be effective.)

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.

  • “I shall rescue 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?

  • I shall redeem you.”

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.

  • I shall take you to Me for a people.”

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.

Shemot: The Who of Who You Are

Authenticity is the act of openly and courageously seeing what needs to be seen, saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done, and becoming that which you are intent on being.                    

Scott Edmund Miller

Like most children, I was taught that lying is bad. People can be cruel and merciless, however, while patting themselves on the back for their so-called “honesty.” Hence the term – “the brutal truth.” Honestly, sometimes “honesty” can be a tad overrated. On the other hand, lying, especially to ourselves, ensures that we never unlock potential – the potential of our relationships, the situations we find ourselves in, and especially ourselves.  

The Search For Authenticity

These days, many of us search for honesty in the form of “authenticity.” We want to be true to ourselves, and also let people into our private world, and allow them to see us for who we are. For those of us who have worn their personae well, perhaps for decades, the thought of dropping the mask and authentically connecting can be scary, yet exhilarating with the promise of a new paradigm. Embracing the vulnerability of connection is treading new water for many.                    

But just who are we anyway? Who is the who of who we are? And is honesty or authenticity always the best policy? Speaking personally, some aspects of my character are far from polished and in fact, are not so nice. Whether it’s my sarcastic, judgmental, or impatient self, I am pretty good sometimes– at being a little awful. For better or worse, these qualities show up as part of my “authentic self.” So, do I lift the curtain to reveal the “whole enchilada” me?  Is authenticity nothing more than a challenge to “take me as I am”?          

The Three Prongs of Authenticity

 Authenticity is not a be-all and end-all concept; rather it is three pronged (authenticity, integrity, and servant/leadership) that comprise a state of “wholeness.” Thus, “wholeness” is not a disconnected and self-centered state of being. It is a unifying force based on connection and interconnection. So while we can manifest and lead from any aspect of ourselves, even the negative ones – and still be within the parameters of “authenticity” – “wholeness” asks us not to do that.  Authenticity tells us to look within. But wholeness asks us to consider the bigger picture and the external impact we are choosing to make. Authenticity acknowledges multiple authentic and sometimes incompatible realities. Wholeness asks us to choose which of those realities we want to make operational in any given moment.       

In “Shemot,” Moses famously encounters the “Burning Bush:”

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.  So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (3:2-3)

Some commentators focus on the fact that it was a lowly thorn bush, thus emphasizing the attribute of “humility,” marveling that God would appear in something so inconsequential. Others interpret the “blazing fire that does not consume,” to mean that even when our enemies try to destroy, obliterate and burn us, the Jewish people will never be totally consumed by the fire of hatred.

Incompatible Realities

These views focus on one aspect or the other of the Burning Bush.  What I find most fascinating, however, is the paradox of it, the exquisite harmony of totally incompatible realities – a burning bush – that is not being consumed.  Walt Whitman said, “I contain multitudes.” And thus, we are all “burning bushes.” We all contain within us the paradox of multiple and incompatible realities that form one holistic whole. Said Parker Palmer, “In certain circumstances, truth is not found by splitting the world into either-or but by embracing it as both – and.”                                            

If you are only a bush or only fire, then you are acting from only one perspective, and you are missing the wholeness of being a “burning bush.” Some situations call for quiet humility and some for blazing fire. It is all one authentic you, but the point is to know when to be what, and how you can act from your highest self. It is the prong of integrity.

The Power Of Servant/Leadership

 Moses wanted to serve God and, at the same time, he was also terrified that he was not up to the task. He had two authentic selves going on, two choices to make. Moses embraced his fear, acknowledged its authentic truth and then acted from the self that wanted to serve God. That is when he stepped into his ultimate power as servant/leader.    

And so authenticity is not about being an open book.  Nor is it an excuse for causing pain and suffering to others. “Authenticity,” says author Scott Edmund Miller, “is the act of openly and courageously seeing what needs to be seen, saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done, and becoming that which you are intent on being.”                

 So be authentic. By all means, be who you are in your full paradoxical and multitudinous self. But remember, that in the who of who you are, there is always a choice. In your quest for authenticity be guided by integrity and be inspired by servant/leadership. Be mindful. Be kind. And be whole.

Internalize and Actualize:

1.Write down five descriptions of yourself that you know to be authentically true. Do you feel these descriptions are positive or negative? Underneath that list, write down five descriptions that others would have for you, based on how you ensure you appear and come across. Then write down which of the five you know to be true about yourself are others aware of. And of the five that others see, which are actually true representations of yourself.

Five authentically true descriptions: positive or negative?
Five descriptions others have of you:

  1. List the people that you feel you can be completely yourself with and who know the five authentic descriptions of yourself (don’t worry if this is only 1-2 people…or no one for that matter). If there is someone that you can be 100% yourself with, do they also find the descriptions you find negative as negative? If not, how do they see that quality as something positive or with positive potential?

People you are authentic with:
How they see your “negative” and authentic qualities:

  1. Ideally you will reach a point where you no longer hide what you consider authentic about yourself and what others think about you will likewise be authentic. Write down a few ways that you can start to integrate the two. For example, if others see you as strong and a “powerwoman” but you see yourself as insecure and sensitive, how can the two work together to benefit you? Are there times where showing your vulnerability would help others see that you are not perfect and respect your strength even more? Write down how you think it would make you feel to be more honest and authentic with others and not need to put on a front.

Ways to integrate what you know and what others think:
How will this make you feel (and after you have tried, how does this make you feel?