Azriela Jankovic
Beyond All Things... and always Within Us.

A paradigm shift for Passover

Each year on Passover, not only do we re-tell the iconic story of the Israelites’ liberation from 210 years of Egyptian slavery, but we are also commanded to re-experience it, as it is stated “And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, “Because of this, the Lord did [this] for me when I went out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8)

How can we stir up our empathy enough to relate to the epic experiences of our ancestors so long ago? If we are called upon to re-live the experience, perhaps there is a way in which we can relate to the experience of slavery on a psychological level.

Last month, I interviewed Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, a renowned psychiatrist who dedicated his career to serving those struggling with addiction. (Our conversation can be heard on episode #31 of the ‘Within Us’ podcast)

He explained that today, there is a greater pursuit of pleasure than ever before in history. His observation comes after having witnessed first hand the effects of skyrocketing rates of addiction over the past several decades.

From many avenues, our generation has been led to believe that happiness and pleasure are one and the same. With the advent and innovation of technology, we -have much more – access to hedonic pleasure, and simultaneously less -necessity to engage in any physical labor.

Over the years, advertisements have inched their way into our lives first via periodicals, billboards, radio and television. Today, we are up close and personal with targeted marketing at any moment, as ads have made it through our front doors and onto our living room couches via handheld digital devices. 

We are constantly fed the message that the acquisition of some new item or some new experience will bring us the exact pleasure that we are missing, and will make our lives happier. From all of these influences, we can all  easily become enslaved to the hedonic treadmill of modern living.

Rabbi Twerski’s message is clear: pleasure and happiness can not be equated. He recalled the story of our ancestor Abraham, calling him a ‘maverick,’ not merely for his adoption of monotheism, but for his unique recognition that it was upon him to serve The Creator rather than constantly looking to be served by The Creator. Rather than asking ‘what can G-d do for me?’ Abraham’s question was ‘what can I do for G-d?’ 

This paradigm shift takes us out of the pursuit of pleasure and into the pursuit of purpose.

The second theme that we explored in the interview is that of maintaining positive self-esteem. Each and every person in this universe has been created in the image of the Infinite One, and self-esteem, as I have come to understand it… is holy

Each one of us possesses the unique gifts and potentials that only we can utilize to fulfill our individual role in our collective story.

It is April 2020, and we’re embarking on a Passover that is different than all other Passovers that we have experienced in our lifetimes. 

We can recall the story of Passover told in the Haggadah and focus on our great leaders like Moses and Aaron. We  can also read further into the story and see ‘ourselves,’ realizing the array of important roles played in our redemption.

We can retell the story of Nachshon, the first to forge ahead into the Red Sea, who went forth until he was up to his neck in the waters, at which point… the sea split.

We can recall the courage of Miriam, Moses’ older sister, who, even in times of oppression and bondage, had faith in a brighter tomorrow, encouraging her parents to remarry so that Moses might be born.

We can remember the daughter of the Egyptian Pharoah, who, in the same moment that her father was ruthlessly enslaving the Israelites, reached out her arms in compassion, picked baby Moses up and out of the river, and brought him into the safety of her home.

As we retell the stories of our compassionate, courageous, and faithful ancestors, we can remember that within each one of us, their spiritual DNA runs strong. Each one of us has access to these qualities.

How exactly can we access them and do our part in writing the story of our collective future?

Jewish philosophy teaches that within each of us, there are two inclinations: the ‘good’ inclination, and the ‘evil’ inclination. 

Rabbi Twerski explained that while the ‘evil’ inclination is often perceived as the force tempting us to go astray, it does something far more disabling. 

The evil inclination actually wants to rob us of our self trust and our self-esteem, thereby making us feel worthless. “If he gets you to feel worthless,” the Rabbi concluded, “then he’s won his battle.”

What if Nachshon had succumbed to the evil inclination, and hesitated to enter the waters because of his fear of failure?

What if Miriam hadn’t been courageous enough to stand up to her parents because she was too plagued by imposter syndrome?

What if Pharoah’s daughter hadn’t believed that she could pull off the great feat of bringing a Jewish baby into her home because of her self-defeating thoughts?

In just a few days we will be retelling the story of our Exodus from slavery. With abundant gratitude to The Almighty who performed miracles in our midst, we can also recall, and call upon our ancestors’ collective courage. 

We can tell the story of our Exodus, seeing ourselves in its unfolding, and affirming our abilities to call out self-doubt for what it is. Self-doubt, simply put, is the slavery of the mind holding us back from reaching our true potential.

This year, may we not be blinded by any plague that threatens to shake our faith, or get in the way of our vision for what is possible in our future.

This year, may we recognize the ways in which the evil inclination attempts to enslave us…

And may we, this year, and forever more, break free from anything that has the capacity to hold us back.

This year, from the confines of our homes, perhaps.

But next year…may we experience that freedom in Jerusalem.

How can we stir up our empathy and relate to the epic experiences of our ancestors so long ago? If we are called upon to re-live the experience, perhaps there is a way in which we can relate to the experience of slavery on a psychological level.

Last month, I interviewed Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, a renowned psychiatrist who dedicated his career to serving those struggling with addiction. (Our conversation can be heard on episode #31 of the ‘Within Us’ podcast)

He explained that today, there is a greater pursuit of pleasure than ever before in history. His observation comes after having witnessed first hand the effects of skyrocketing rates of addiction over the past several decades.

From many avenues, our generation has been led to believe that happiness and pleasure are one and the same. With the advent and innovation of technology, we have much more access to hedonic pleasure, and simultaneously less necessary to engage in any physical labor.

Over the years, advertisements have inched their way into our lives first via periodicals, billboards, radio and television. Today, we are up close and personal with targeted marketing at any moment, as ads have made it through our front doors and onto our living room couches via handheld digital devices. 

We are constantly fed the message that the acquisition of some new item or some new experience will bring us the exact pleasure that we are missing, and will make our lives happier. From all of these influences, we can all  easily become enslaved to the hedonic treadmill of modern living.

Rabbi Twerski’s message is clear: pleasure and happiness can not be equated. He recalled the story of our ancestor Abraham, calling him a ‘maverick,’ not merely for his adoption of monotheism, but for his unique recognition that it was upon him to serve The Creator rather than constantly looking to be served by The Creator. Rather than asking ‘what can G-d do for me?’ Abraham’s question was ‘what can I do for G-d?’ 

This paradigm shift takes us out of the pursuit of pleasure and into the pursuit of purpose.

The second theme that we explored in the interview is that of maintaining positive self-esteem. Each and every person in this universe has been created in the image of the Infinite One, and self-esteem, as I have come to understand it… is holy

Each one of us possesses the unique gifts and potentials that only we can utilize to fulfill our individual role in our collective story.

It is April 2020, and we’re embarking on a Passover that is different than all other Passovers that we have experienced in our lifetimes. 

We can recall the story of Passover told in the Haggadah and focus on our great leaders like Moses and Aaron. We  can also read further into the story and see ‘ourselves,’ realizing the array of important roles played in our redemption.

We can retell the story of Nachshon, the first to forge ahead into the Red Sea, who went forth until he was up to his neck in the waters, at which point… the sea split.

We can recall the courage of Miriam, Moses’ older sister, who, even in times of oppression and bondage, had faith in a brighter tomorrow, encouraging her parents to remarry so that Moses might be born.

We can remember the daughter of the Egyptian Pharoah, who, in the same moment that her father was ruthlessly enslaving the Israelites, reached out her arms in compassion, picked baby Moses up from the river, and brought him into the safety of her home.

As we retell the stories of our compassionate, courageous, and faithful ancestors, we can remember that within each one of us, their spiritual DNA runs strong. Each one of us has access to these qualities.

How exactly can we access them and do our part in writing the story of our collective future?

Jewish philosophy teaches that within each of us, there are two inclinations: the ‘good’ inclination, and the ‘evil’ inclination. 

Rabbi Twerski explained that while the ‘evil’ inclination is often perceived as the force tempting us to go astray, it does something far more disabling. 

The evil inclination actually wants to rob us of our self trust and our self-esteem, thereby making us feel worthless. “If he gets you to feel worthless,” the Rabbi concluded, “then he’s won his battle.”

What if Nachshon had succumbed to the evil inclination, and hesitated to enter the waters because of his fear of failure?

What if Miriam hadn’t been courageous enough to stand up to her parents because she was too plagued by imposter syndrome?

What if Pharoah’s daughter hadn’t believed that she could pull off the great feat of bringing a Jewish baby into her home because of her self-defeating thoughts?

In just a few days we will be retelling the story of our Exodus from slavery. With abundant gratitude to The Almighty who performed miracles in our midst, we can also recall, and call upon our ancestors’ collective courage. 

We can tell the story of our Exodus, seeing ourselves in its unfolding, and affirming our abilities to call out self-doubt for what it is. Self-doubt, simply put, is the slavery of the mind holding us back from reaching our true potential.

This year, may we not be blinded by any plague that threatens to shake our faith, or get in the way of our vision for what is possible in our future.

This year, may we recognize the ways in which the evil inclination attempts to enslave us…

And may we, this year, and forever more, break free from anything that has the capacity to hold us back.

This year, from the confines of our homes, perhaps.

But next year…may we experience that freedom in Jerusalem.

About the Author
Azriela Jankovic is an educator, speaker, and self-coaching advocate empowering people to move past self doubt and actualize the potential within. She hosts the ‘Within Us’ Podcast, sharing transformational tools for mind, body, and spirit. She is the author of ‘Beyond All Things." In 2015 she earned a doctoral degree in education, packed up a home, and fulfilled the dream of making Aliya with her husband and children.
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