Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller
There are two terms for work in Hebrew, avodah and melacha. The Ramban explains that melacha
is purposeful work which produces a finished product, while avodah is labor that has no defined objective. The term eved, a slave, is a derivative of avodah. An eved is one who works with no goal or accomplishments to show for his efforts. His agenda is that of his master’s. When Hashem redeemed the Jews from Egypt he not only freed them from slavery, but from the senseless avodah they were forced to do.
The Jews were commanded to erect two cities, Pitom and Ramses. The Gemara teaches that they were built on quicksand. As soon as they were completed, they sunk into the earth. The Egyptians intended to torture and degrade the Jews with senseless labor. When Bnei Yisrael left Egypt they were finally freed of this avdut. They gained new purpose and became true servants of Hashem.
Erich Fromm noted, “Freedom without freedom for, is not freedom at all.” The seder, the feast of liberation, is bound by laws. There are halachot about the matzot, the korban pesach, the wine, and the marror. Chazal understood that for one to be truly free there must be a purpose. Otherwise a person becomes enslaved to his passions. On the first night of Pesach we savor the freedom to chart our own destiny. On the next night we start counting the omer, working our way towards the goal of matan Torah.
Freedom and discipline are partners. Self-control is achieved by establishing a point of contentment.
Chazal say, “Eizehu ashir hasameach b’chelko.” A rich man is someone who rejoices with his lot.
If we constantly look at others and what they have, we will never be happy.
The Baal Shem Tov told a story of a man who was climbing up a mountain with a heavy load on his shoulder. He looked up at the summit and saw that he was still very far away and he began to feel despondent. The Baal Shem Tov then said, “Instead of looking ahead, look back and see how far you’ve traveled. That will give you the strength to keep on going.”
A person should look inside himself to see who he can become. The happiest people are so busy doing things. They have no time to think if they are happy. One must train oneself to always be joyous and not make it dependent on anything.
Many things happen beyond our control, but you can always control how you will react. The most important component to achieve happiness is gratitude. Gratitude is related to expectation. The more you expect the less grateful you’ll be. The less you expect the more grateful you’ll be.
We have the obvious edge. Judaism is based on appreciation. The Gemara says, “Mishenechnas Adar marbim b’simcha.” (When Adar comes we increase our joy.) It also says, “Mishnenchnas
av m’mamatim b’simcha.” (When Av comes we decrease our joy.). The Kotzker Rebbe questions, should it not say marbim b’aveilut (mourning is increased)? He explains that the baseline for a Jew is always simcha (joy).
Start your day off with gratitude by saying Modeh Ani with passion. Say the blessings with intention and train your children to do so too.
The days of sefirah are an auspicious time to work on yourself. Avoid comparing yourself to others, and having high expectations. Engage in self-discipline and develop gratitude. May we reach sheleimut (perfection) in our avodat Hashem (serving Hashem).