Shemini: Fight, Flight or Freeze?
We have just concluded four weeks of lockdown. Yesterday they extended it for ‘at least’ a further three weeks.
How are you coping? What plans do we make for the future?
Our bodies have an automatic, built-in system designed to protect us from threat or danger. It is called the “Fight-Flight-Freeze” response.
When confronted with a problem, we all have a choice to make. Either we run or hide, because we are afraid. Or we stay put, maintaining the status quo to the best of our abilities, due to being overwhelmed. Or we dig deeper into ourselves and discover fresh strength enabling us to transform the challenge into an opportunity.
We have just concluded celebrating the festival of Passover. The mystics explain that the exodus from Egypt was the moment when G-d gave us a choice: To be free or not to be free. We only have to exercise the option.
The true fight takes place inside of ourselves. It is in this arena where the greatest battles take place. It is where true heroes are made. As our sages teach us: “Who is mighty? He who subdues his evil inclination”. ￼
This fact is the reason for which G-d gave the Jewish people all the commandments. As the Midrash states, “Rav said: Were not the mitzvot given so that man might be refined by them?”
It is also the moment when we become free. If we allow ourselves to be guided by our impulses, we will eventually be enslaved to its destructive whims. True freedom is gained only when our emotions are fully aligned with our considered long term interests.
Refinement of character unleashes our full potential as individuals. It enhances the quality of our lives which to a large extent is based on the quality of our relationships. It also enables us to influence our surroundings in a healthy and sustainable manor.
We are living in extraordinary times. These moments come with extraordinary challenges. However, there are also extraordinary opportunities.
Being physically isolated from our friends and family allows us to become more aware of our feelings and our true motives. They are also an opportunity to prioritize our interests.
Were we honest in our friendships? Did we act fairly with our colleagues at work? Have we been too impulsive? To what extent have we used other people to serve our interests? How much value did we add to the lives of others?
No doubt there is lots of improvement needed. We can all become better people. This is what Judaism is all about.
Now is the time. A little bit every day.