Friday, January 20, 2012

Parshas Vaeira

We're up to a child's favorite parsha.
 Blood, frogs, lions, dead animals... c'mon this is a school teachers dream week. She has full attendance and participation, no doubt, and she gets to jump around the room croaking and roaring, praying that no parent decides to make a surprise visit during this high energy week. 
This week, the Torah discusses seven of the famous ten plagues which G-d sent upon the Egyptians for the well known reason of persuading Paraoh to release the Jewish people from their bondage.
Rashi teaches that it was also to create an awareness of G-d in the Mitzrim, something which they were lacking.
Well, do you think the plan worked? Were Paraoh and the Egyptians afraid enough of the makot, plagues, to let the Jews free?
To find out, you'll have to tune in next week for the next episode of Skull caps and Mummies.
Meanwhile, let's look into the possuk  to see what's goin on.  Apparently Paraoh was suffering tremendously during each plague. He was practically crawling out of his skin (along with his lice buddies) in pain and discomfort. But then, suddenly, the possuk  writes that PARAOH SAW THAT THERE HAD BEEN A RELIEF...that Hashem had stopped the plagues. ...HE DIDNT HEED THEM...
As soon as the pain of the makot stopped, all of the discomfort associated with them disappeared as well. As soon as he was relieved from his horrors, he completely forgot about all his suffering.
Usually, when a person is in a situation that causes him pain or just unpleasantness, he makes a secret vow never to allow himself to enter into that kind of circumstance again.
I know someone who declared she's never giving birth to another child. Well, she made the same declaration 8 times.
Did you ever decide you're not touching one more chocolate bar, only to find yourself getting mileage on your credit card from Hershey's? Thank goodness for 'bli neder'. 
I think we're all on the same page over here.
Why does this happen?
 Because as time passes, the once painful experience turns into a distant memory. When the actual pain or discomfort is no longer felt, we lose the clarity of the physical feeling or emotion.  
Many times while suffering with something, we make promises and commitments of sorts, and most usually they are pretty short lived. Because as soon as the pain is no longer present, we return to our old, usually negative ways, pretty fast.
The best way to make sure we don't repeat the negative behaviors that we promised not to do, would be to stop and think right before we repeat the act. Next time you want to down your third bag of Hot Tamale chips in a row, just try and remember how the last time you did that you spent the whole night in the water closet throwing your guts up. That might serve as an incentive to stay away from making the same mistake.
 Ok, we'll shift away from the negative for now, since we have this problem in the positive too. Let's turn our focus there for a moment.
How many of us have gone to a really good shiur, let's say on the topic of shmirat halashon- guarding your tongue. You probably left the speech all inspired, and declared "I'm NEVER speaking loshon horah again!!"  Now tell me... or rather tells yourselves... how long did that vow last? You don't have to tell me, cuz I made the same resolution.  
What's the secret to getting inspired and remaining inspired, and to actually grow from the inspiration?
The prerequisite would be that  we have to know how to align our emotions.  We must be in touch with our feelings. Any time something happens, for the good or the better, be aware of how that makes you feel. Angry, happy, sad, grateful, inspired... the list is endless.
Once you know how you feel about something, only then can you decide where to store that emotion.
Dovid Hamelech had quite an emotional life. Each and every thing he experienced, for the good or the better, became a perek of Tehilim, each expressing a different emotion.
A few parshiot ago, when Yaakov went down to Mitzraim to meet his son, Yosef, that was a moment full of inspiration for Yaakov. He wanted to grab it and hold onto that moment forever. But, inspiration comes and goes.
So what did he do? He recited kriat sh'ma. But why? Surely he already davened that day, and I really don't think he was on his way to bed... so what was that all about?
Because Yaakov realized that if he wants to always hold on to the inspiration, he has to do something to make it everlasting. So he reacted by doing a mitzvah which is eternal.
If someone extended themselves on your behalf and you experience a feeling of gratitude, do something about it. That's the perfect opportunity to buy them a nice gift, to write a thank you card, do something positive that will help you hold on to your positive emotion.
Ever go sailing in a sailboat? It's actually  more fun than a motorboat. Here's how it works. If the sails are facing the wind, the boat will sail along nicely. As soon as you take the sails and turn them away from the wind, the boat will stand stationary in the ocean.
This is how it is with our emotions. If we turn to them and relate to them, we'll sail along beautifully. However, if we decide to turn ourselves away from them, and ignore them, we won't budge. And, if it stays there long enough, through rainstorms and heavy winds, it just might end up sinking.
Hold onto your inspiration- don't let it slip through your fingertips... Decide to take a positive step. Do something to make it last. Forever. 
"Happiness is... good health, and a bad memory"