The stories we tell ourselves, the narratives we weave, have an immense influence on our perceptions and decisions. By revisiting the foundational tale of the Exodus each day, we are not merely recounting a historical event — we are embracing its transformative spirit. * On the Hayom Yom for 26 Menachem Av.
In the rhythm of our modern lives, there is a daily act, a ritual, that transports us back to an ancient pivot: the Exodus from Egypt. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, emphasizes the significance of this remembrance, stating: "It is a positive commandment of the Torah to mention the Exodus from Egypt at night... 'All the days of your life' includes the nights." (Orach Chaim 61:2). This daily reflection, reaching back thousands of years, naturally prompts us to wonder: Why this insistence on a past event?
In our day-to-day experiences, the stories we tell ourselves, the narratives we weave, have an immense influence on our perceptions and decisions. A shift in how we recount an event can alter our entire approach to it. In the realm of personal development and psychology, this principle has been recognized as a means of empowering individuals, allowing them to find new meanings and perspectives in their experiences.
The Hayom Yom of 26 Av discusses the Chassidic interpretation of the "Exodus from Egypt," emphasizing the importance of narrating Chassidic tales and deeply internalizing them. Every story, in this view, isn't merely a recounting of historical events but offers guidance for living. It should inspire betterment in character and deeper appreciation for the mitzvot. The narratives of our tradition, notably the Exodus, aren't just about the past. They're dynamic templates for living. By immersing ourselves in these narratives, we draw from them the strength, inspiration, and guidance to navigate our lives.
Our biblical ancestors were adept at the art of narrative reframing, transforming their challenging circumstances into lessons of divine intervention and resilience.
Take, for instance, Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob. As a young boy, he was favored by his father, which brewed jealousy among his brothers. This envy culminated in a treacherous act: they sold him into Egyptian slavery. In Egypt, Joseph faced a myriad of trials, from false accusations to imprisonment. Yet, instead of internalizing a story of victimhood and betrayal, Joseph chose to see a larger divine narrative at play. When eventually reconciled with his brothers, he reframed the narrative, saying, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20). Through this lens, Joseph transformed a tale of treachery into one of providence and purpose.
Then there's King David, a shepherd turned king, whose life was punctuated by moments of intense trials, from facing the giant Goliath to evading King Saul's multiple assassination attempts, and later, dealing with rebellion within his own house. Yet, in the depths of despair, David harnessed the power of narrative reframing, pouring out his soul in poetic prayers that would become the Psalms. Instead of dwelling on the shadows of his trials, David chose to spotlight the divine guidance that accompanied him. A prime example is when he wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4). Here, David transformed his narrative of danger and despair into one of faith, hope, and divine companionship.
These profound shifts in perspective weren't mere exercises in positive thinking; they were transformative tools, helping our forebears navigate their lives with a deeper sense of purpose and connection to the Divine.
In essence, the Exodus isn't just an event we recall; it's an ongoing dialogue between our past and present. As we revisit this foundational tale each day, we are not merely recounting a historical event. We are embracing its transformative spirit, using it as a lens to reinterpret and infuse our own stories with purpose, resilience, and hope. In a world often framed by challenges, the Exodus narrative offers a timeless beacon, guiding us to continuously rediscover and celebrate our unique paths to personal redemption.