I spoke last week about slavery to negativity. It’s so easy for us to fall into pessimism about our lives and the world as a whole. I have seen a lot of it in some of my own family members recently, as they survey the war in Ukraine and their own thinking paints for them ever more frightening scenarios. It’s so tempting to do. And then, of course it turns into a cycle of miserable thinking begetting miserable feelings, which make the world look even worse than it looked already.
And, of course, this cycle gives birth to other slaveries also. People innocently seek to escape the pain of their own miserable thinking through eating, shopping, gambling, alcohol or drugs – and the list is much longer than that.
This slavery to our own negative thinking, followed by innocently escaping the bad feeling through addiction is the process to look to see beyond on Passover.
The antidote to it all, of course, is gratitude. And, hence, gratitude is the essence of our Passover seders.
Slavery and addiction are just not possible in a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude is the great human emancipator. Because when we value, feel and live life’s goodness, there is no need to escape into something else. The sentence, ‘life is good’, ends with a full-stop. There is nothing beyond it. No need to smoke too much; no unhealthy relationship with alcohol; no desperate drive for honour and success; we don’t even need to check our smartphones every few moments. Every few hours will do instead. Simply said, when life is good, we don’t need to run away from it.
So, in the Seder, again and again, we say thank you to God for the life he has given us – a life of meaning and purpose; a life of challenge and opportunity; a life of struggle that will help us attain greatness; a life of goodness without end. If we keep on looking in that direction, persistently, we might just remember it – and find lasting freedom from our self-imposed slaveries that we would all dearly love to achieve.
Shabbat Shalom and Good Yom Tov