By Rabbi Zolly Claman
(April 2019) – We love moments of inspiration, don’t we? It makes us feel connected and warm. Every person has different situations that get them inspired. Inspiration is something that has little to do with us and a lot to do with the situation around us. We get inspired, but the experience is fairly passive on our end. Like most things, “easy come easy go”.
Inspiration is kind of like a sheet of tin foil. The rules of heat capacity govern that the longer it takes for a piece of metal to heat up, the longer it will retain the heat. Tin foil will heat up very quickly, but the moment it is removed from the heat source, it cools down just as rapidly that it heated up.
So the question becomes, what do we do when we are inspired?
On Seder night we will be retelling the story of the Exodus. The hero of the evening (who interestingly is not mentioned in the Hagadah), is Moses. Moses was the greatest Jewish leader in our rich history. The moment that he was promoted from layman to leader was the moment that the exodus really started; “Let me turn now and see this great spectacle – why does the thorn bush not burn up?” (Shemot, 3:3). According to the Midrash, the burning bush had been there for a long time and was well known to the locals. What set Moshe apart from everyone else was that he actually left the path he was on to investigate this unusual sight.
He put insight and inspiration into action. He stepped out of the hectic rush of life to look into something that could provide him with more meaning. Everyone else in the town saw that bush and said “wow, that’s cool!”, then went on their merry way. Only after this self-provoked action of “let me turn”, did G-d call upon Moshe as the first and greatest leader of the Jewish people.
When we read about a soldier or civilian who was wounded in Israel we can feel terrible, but does our day really change? Take that moment of inspiration and feeling the pain of another Jewish person and say a small chapter of Psalms for his or her recovery. We could wake up in the morning, refreshed and energized for the day ahead of us, then go straight to the first task at hand. Before that moment of gratitude fades away, say ‘thank you G-d for today!’ In a situation that you feel G-d’s providence guiding you in life, committing yourself to 10 minutes of Torah study a day or setting aside time to pray is taking the inspiration and putting it into something concrete and long-lasting.
The seder night and all of Passover is a very inspiring time. The opportune approach is to negate the IMAX instruction to “close your eyes and let the feeling pass” and make something concrete that will leave an everlasting impression on us.
Rabbi Zolly Claman is Rabbi at Beth Israel Synagogue – the family shul – the Modern Orthodox Jewish congregation in Edmonton Alberta.