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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

Purim has passed and to be truthful it seemed a bit dull this year. I don’t know if it was because last year we were in lockdown and have not yet gotten back to what is euphemistically called “normal”, or that we are still living in a fog. I don’t mean we all didn’t enjoy the day, fulfilling all the mitzvos, eating the seudah’s with gusto and perhaps imbibing more than we should. No, there was just a small sense that the sparkle had somewhat been tarnished and that we aren’t yet where we believe we once were. Covid brought with it clouds that dulled everyone’s vision, and even as Boruch Hashem the worst is over, we are becoming aware of the many deep challenges that have been left in its wake. The situation in Ukraine has brought another dimension of fragility to our sense of wellbeing.

Close to a decade ago I wrote about a social experiment that took place in a University and I want to share it with you again at this point in time.

“A young lady confidently walked around the room while explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question: ‘half empty or half full?’… She fooled them all …. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied:  “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “and that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burdens become increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”

As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time practiced.”

It is no easy task to carry life’s baggage without it weighing you down to nothing. Torah Yidden have a window of opportunity that offers hope in this respect if we would only grasp it. As Pesach arrives all the rushing about, the scrubbing and cleaning is perhaps meant to remind ourselves that we need to learn to let go of some of the stress that life throws our way. You may ask, how do you figure I can learn to de-stress when all Yom Tov seems to bring us is just that?

Guta Yidden used to teach that Pesach is the Rosh Hashonoh of Emunah: the New Year of Klal Yisroel’s ability to have faith in Hashem. As we became a nation through the miracles shown at Yetzias Mitzrayim, we were invested with a new and eternal faith in Hashem. This belief is now in our spiritual DNA and Pesach is the time to refuel our emunah cells. With this renewed faith in Hashem, much of the stress of life can be eliminated. If we don’t take advantage of this moment, we face the danger that the stress will become the chometz that suffocates our future. Chometz is born from any substance that is allowed to stand unworked upon for too long. So much of what we see as life’s burdens comes from allowing extraneous matters to gather in our hearts, festering there until it blocks all our emotions. Pesach is the moment to realise once again that we have the ability to cast off all this surplus material, and learn to have faith in Hashem’s complete plan for us all.

No matter how much we run around before Yom Tov, and despite the difficulties involved, the night will arrive when we will all sit together, proclaiming the eternal truth “That Hashem is our Redeemer.”

I believe that one of the greatest obstacles we face is that we have no faith in ourselves! We are convinced that we can’t attain such spiritual heights given our daily mundane reality, nor can we ever really be free of the human hypocrisy that often makes up much of our existence. Pesach saw a disparate group of slaves reach the highest level of holiness; that is their bequest to us!

We can leave behind the darkness of the stresses that drag us down and illuminate our inner souls with the candle of bedikas chometz. Covid and all that has followed is part of the Eibishter’s plan, and although we may not understand it, one fact is certain, Hashem runs the world and we must serve Him with positive simcha. The only hindrance to achieving this goal is the self-imposed chometz of doubting ourselves.

Klall Yisroel needs chizuk, of that there is no doubt, however, this must start from within and rise up to bring illumination for others.