Be inspired and then just do it
RABBI SHMUEL BLOCH
In theory, we intrinsically understand that change is possible. All of us know people who were chain smokers and have not touched a cigarette in decades. We all have friends that were extremely overweight and are now slim and fitness fanatics. We have acquaintances that enjoyed their alcohol too much and have been sober for many years.
So if change is really possible why don’t we change when we need to?
One possible answer is that we are just not inspired to do so. However, inspiration is vital for our wellbeing and thus a critical question is: what is the major cause that generates inspiration?
The answer is inspiration is created when motivation is present.
Imagine the following scenario.
Your manager approaches you and informs you that due to a tight deadline you need to work till midnight for the next five months at no extra pay. You must start tonight and if you miss a night, there will be serious repercussions. You agree because you need your job but internally you are seething and upset. You feel you are being taken advantage of in the worst possible way.
Now imagine a second scenario where your manager approaches you and informs you that you need to stay every night till midnight for the next five months. You need to start tonight and if you miss a night there will be serious repercussions. Except this time your manager informs you that your salary will be quadrupled as payment, you will receive a promotion and the company will present you with a luxury car for free and pay for an overseas trip for you and your family.
The change is palpable
How do you feel this time? Suddenly you are elated and energised! Midnight does not sound that bad….
What is the difference between the two scenarios?
The difference is, in the second scenario you see a direct tangible benefit for your efforts. Since you realize that the benefits for your toil and exertion are real and apparent, automatically you are motivated to reach them. Once you are motivated, you are inspired to turn those potential gains into reality.
However in the first scenario no immediate benefit was tangible or concrete. It is true that keeping your job does provide you with a salary at the end of the month. Nevertheless, such a benefit is too remote to create the motivation needed to put in those extra hours. The mere thought of exertion without incentive destroys any future productivity.
Simply put, if we have the right motivation then we can change. However, such an idea is great in theory, but how do we implement it practically? What is the correct methodology that we need to use to change our negative habits once our inspiration is place?
The answer lies in this week’s Parshah.
A compilation of the 613 Mitzvos
Hashem instructs Moshe and Aaron concerning the details of the Korban Pesach (Paschal Lamb) that the Jewish people would offer. One of the many details concerning this sacrifice is the following: “In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not remove any of the meat from the house to the outside, and you shall not break a bone in it” (Shemos Chapter 12 verse 45).
The Sefer HaChinuch, a compilation of the 613 Mitzvos, in discussing the details of the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach specifically not to break a bone, poses a fundamental question. He states that there are many Mitzvos to remind us of the events of the exodus from Egypt. He asks why is this so? Why is just one not enough?
He answers by elucidating and explaining a vital principle of human nature.
You create yourself by your behaviour. A person’s perspective and outlook are established by one’s actions.
A man’s heart and all of his thoughts are drawn after the deeds in which he is currently occupied. Thus, if a person constantly engages in wicked actions, after a while his righteousness will dissipate and at some stage will vanish entirely. What we do is so powerful, it shapes and fashion our attitudes and perspectives. If a person with negative attributes such as being stingy and miserly decides to give charity on a continual basis with persistence and dedication, then eventually he will become a kinder and more generous person.
From dirty rock to exquisite jewel
The reason we have so many Mitzvos to remember the exodus from Egypt is because by doing actions all the time that focus our attention on the exodus, eventually our outlook on life will be permeated with the vital lessons of the exodus from Egypt. We are influenced by what we do. Our actions define us and sculpt our personality.
A diamond with sand and grime all over it does not have that great a value. It is only a constant polishing process which engenders hard work and continual action that turns this dirty rock into an exquisite jewel.
Teaching in a beginners programme in a Yeshiva in Israel, I saw remarkable transformations take place in front of my very eyes. Young adults whose sole focus was partying, drinking and merrymaking transformed into mature and responsible people. People who could barely wake up before lunch suddenly were on time for Shacharis (morning prayers). Individuals who had never uttered Brochas (Blessings) in their entire life were now very careful to do so. Students who loved reading the latest gossip magazines now thought carefully before they spoke.
The reason they were able to do all this is because they saw a tangible benefit in acting a certain way and their positive behaviour eventually replaced all their negative habits. If they can do it, so can we.
Can we change? Yes we can. Are the benefits that will accrue to us substantial and tangible when we begin our journey of change? For sure they are!! Do we really appreciate the power and potency of our actions? Of course we do!!
If this be the case, what are we waiting for? The life we always wanted is there for there for the taking. Be inspired and do it because when you do, your joy will know no bounds.
Rabbi Shmuel Bloch is a regular contributor to SA Jewish Report Online. To see more of his writings on this website,CLICK HERE!