We may suffer from a physical or mental disease, but we cannot allow it to define us. We can find ourselves in all sorts of limiting circumstances, but those circumstances cannot control us.Rabbi Allouche
I’ll never forget that moment.
It was a late afternoon in 2001. I was visiting a Jerusalem hospital, when I suddenly bumped into my beloved mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, in the hospital’s elevator.
“Good afternoon, HaRav Adin!” I greeted him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m going to study the Talmud,” he replied with his playful smile.
“To study the Talmud? In this hospital? Are there no better places to study?” I retorted.
His wise response still reverberates in my mind: “Well, the doctors here have to connect me to a dialysis machine for a few hours, and in the meantime, I’ll study the Talmud.”
At that moment I had learned that my beloved mentor suffered from a genetic condition named “Gaucher” from a very young age, which required him to be connected to a “dialysis machine” each and every month, for approximately three hours. But what stunned me most is not the fact that he never shared this with me and his close students. Rather, it was the idea that Rabbi Steinsaltz never saw this monthly medical treatment as a challenge. For this giant of man, it was an opportunity to study the Talmud for three hours, without interruption. And even as his disease threatened to limit him, he felt free and limitless.
His approach taught me an invaluable lesson for life: We all face challenges, big or small. We all suffer from diseases, physical or mental. We all endure pain, temporary or permanent. But it is the way we choose to address them that makes all the difference.
This is the message of Passover, our festival of freedom. Many of us may be shackled by all sorts of “Egypts.” Some suffer from physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual disabilities, that prevent them from maximizing their infinite potential. Others are entrenched in behaviors and habits that cripple their development.
But once a year, G-d calls upon us to come out of our own Egypts. We may suffer from a physical or mental disease, but we cannot allow it to define us. We can find ourselves in all sorts of limiting circumstances, but those circumstances cannot control us.
So here is a suggestion for this Passover:
Think of two or three particular limitations in your life that are holding you back. Then, make a resolution to overcome them and the negative thoughts that they may be feeding you.
It may be as simple as making that telephone call that frightens us, changing that terrible habit, finding time to connect to G-d even when the physical or emotional place we are in is rough, and taking upon ourselves a new Mitzvah and add deeds of goodness and kindness to our daily schedules.
Without a doubt, we will then experience true joy and freedom, not just on Passover, but also, each and every day. Amen.