We each have a negative inclination lingering within us — indecisiveness. This thief constantly desires to take from us our inner goodness and spirituality. Yet many of us discover the motivation and the spiritual muscle to battle this thief only after he has fired all his bullets against us. Sometimes it doesn’t appear that we are deficient and void of life; we imagine that our addictions, bad habits, or lack of upward spiritual mobility are either someone else’s fault or fate. The real truth is, however, that it is within our grasp many times to change these circumstances if we come to a decision to choose a better path filled with life. It is at that point, when we finally find the strength to suppress the thief and break out, that we start ourselves on a more meaningful and wholesome path towards real living.
In Miztrayim (Egypt), the Children of Israel experienced a dulling of their souls due to the culture in which they lived. The Sages say that the ten sefirot (lights), or characteristics of Hashem in Jewish mystic thought, were found to have been corrupted in all of the souls in Mitzrayim. One meaning of the word Mitzrayim is ‘constraints.' This meaning paints a very grim picture of how the spirit of the land and the people of Mitzrayim led to the diminishing, if not a snuffing out, of the sefirot in the consciousness of B'nei Yisrael. It is taught that these manifestations of distortion were responsible for bringing down the plagues in all of their totality and, in effect, were the antidote to right the brokenness. The people, unable to decide how they wished to live, were subjugated not merely because Pharaoah was a ruler, but because they allowed it due to their dysfunction. Had they been able to activate these lights within themselves, they could have risen up and reclaimed their lives.
When the ten plagues set right the imbalance and destroyed Pharaoah’s grip, not only the religious standing of Pharoah himself changed, but also the spiritual nature of B'nei Yisrael and their ability to perceive the Divine. Because of this, they not only recall the eternal covenant, they then buy into it and come out of their spiritual slumber. Hope is renewed and they are awakened to the journey that lies before their lives. Though they wrestle with it later in their journeys through the desert, they are at least in better straits to start the journey and be freed. No longer are they tentative tenants — they are tired of renting. They are now ready to own something, they are ready to buy.
As the sefirot are manifested in the Divine, they find their parallel in the middot in our own lives. But what about the state of our lives today? Are we living in a culture that is dulling us? How many of us are in a stupor that is either self-induced or society induced? And what is the remedy to zap us out of our ambivalence and confusion? When we fail to exert a sense of authority, decisiveness and purpose in our lives, then we remain a slave to our circumstances and the status quo. I call this kind of living “junk-food living”: easy, predictable, cheap, and lacking true substance. The key: get our middah of decisiveness on the mend and reach higher. Make tough decisions. Switch things around.
We each have a unique purpose. But it can only be achieved through action, motivation, and positive behaviors. It is only then that we will learn to inherit that which Hashem has promised to us. Just as B'nei Yisrael was forced to leave their slave mentality and conditions, we need to cease being renters. We need to own something - we need to learn to "buy”, we need to be decisive. We must stop looking out the window and dreaming of how life can be different. By shutting out the thieves and distorters in our lives that steal opportunities and tell us we can’t, we can open the door and walk freely into our own potential. No more are our lives for rent — they have been given, they are ours, and we are commanded to choose life. Find those points of choosing and act — today is the day.