Don’t Be So Negative!

Shalom Aleichem!

I know it’s a cliche for me to say this, but, I really enjoy studying TorahWhat’s on my “reading list” these days?

Well, amongst other things, I’ve been studying a Chassidic discourse by the Rebbe about Passover. More specifically, it’s an in-depth analysis of the question of the Wise Son that we read at the Seder (“What do these ordinances, statutes and laws mean to you?”)

Anyway, it got me thinking about Passover. And, although not seemingly directly connected, also about Shabbat.

Some people, when speaking about Shabbat, seem to focus on the “dont’s.” Don’t drive a car. Don’t turn on lights. Don’t cook. Etc., you get the picture.

And they have good reason to do so: The bulk of the laws of Shabbat concern things that we cannot do on this holy day. It might seem easy, at times, to get caught up in all the “dont’s.”

Now, also on my current “reading list” is the Laws of Shabbat, as codified by Maimonides. Most of these laws do, in fact, concern the so-called negative aspect of Shabbat (i.e. all the “dont’s”). Yet, Maimonides begins his codification by stating, “It is a positive commandment to rest on Shabbat.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once explained that the reason Maimonides begins with this positive commandment, is to teach us that our focus of Shabbat should be the positive aspect, i.e. the rest of Shabbat. Granted, we also need to know what is prohibited, but that is not meant to be the focus.

The same thought process can be applied to Passover.

What happened on Passover? May I suggest that two things happened:

1. We left the slavery of Egypt;
2. We became free men and women.

When we sit at the Passover Seder table and retell the story of the Exodus, which aspect should be our focus?

Just as when it comes to Shabbat, our focus should be on the positive, so too with Passover. We are not to focus on the fact that we stopped being slaves, but rather, that we became a free people. 

I don’t think this is mere semantics. Our thoughts affect how we feel and how we act. This, in turn, affects our family and friends, as well.

This Shabbat — and this Passover — I plan on focusing on the positive, and I hope to impart that flavor of Shabbat and Passover to my family members and QC students that are joining us.

Shabbat Shalom,