> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > A Life Lesson

Remembering the Experience

Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )

by Adam Lieberman

God told Moses that the time had now come for the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt. When Moses approached Pharaoh asking for the Jews' freedom, Pharaoh flatly refused. God then sent a number of plagues onto the Egyptians so Pharaoh would know that God really meant business and wanted the Jews to be freed. It was when the Egyptians were experiencing the pain of the plagues that Pharaoh then promised to let the Jewish people go only if the plagues would stop.

But when God stopped the plagues - and the pain associated with them ended:

"Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief ... He did not heed them...." (Exodus 8:11)


When someone does something that causes him to have an unpleasant or painful experience, he almost universally commits never to repeat the unhealthy behavior ever again. How often have you gotten nauseous after consuming too much food or drink and declared never to do it again? Or went to sleep much too late only to be exhausted and irritable the next day, and then committed to yourself to now always be in bed before 11:00 o'clock?

But like most everyone else, after a few days pass and the discomfort has faded into a memory, you'll then easily repeat the identical negative behavior once again. This is because when the pain of a situation is no longer present and you saw there had been a relief, you person will simply lose your once crystal clear clarity.

On a more serious scale, imagine someone God forbid has a heart attack and is rushed to the emergency room. While recovering in his hospital bed, he commits to himself immediately to change his ways and begin to eat better, start an exercise program, and work much less at the office. Sadly, these commitments are often short-lived because when the pain of the experience subsides, the old habits naturally and quickly return.

The fact is if you're in pain, it's not very hard to have clarity on the type of behavior you want to begin to have. Anyone can do that. What takes effort and goes against human nature is to still fight the urge to drift back to your old ways when you aren't in any physical discomfort.

A great way to accomplish this is: before you want to repeat a self-destructive behavior, stop and spend a moment to mentally recall the aftermath of the past event. It's very important actually to take yourself through the whole experience and "bring it back to life." This will make it real to you all over again.

Although there will always be a part of you that will try to push this negative association away so you can engage in your old ways, the more you're able to focus on the negative consequence, it will dilute your anticipated pleasure. And just like lifting weights, the more you do this, the stronger and stronger your willpower will become, making the behavior easier to and easier to resist. So, reliving it in your mind today will allow you to have a happier and more meaningful life both today - and tomorrow.

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