You may have noticed a funny thing about your brokerage accounts recently: they're a lot smaller. Financial monkey business has left the world economy with the worst financial meltdown in 70 years and your brokerage accounts are feeling the pain.
Meltdowns can crush your spirit. After losing everything we own, it's easy to lose our confidence as well. Even billionaires can surrender to despair.Under financial pressure, a leading German businessman, Adolph Merckle,threw himself under a train. The financial crisis had taken away his money; a crisis of faith had taken away his soul.
But we can cope with this financial meltdown. I say this with some authority, because I'm Jewish. Jews are the world experts on crisis. Jews have endured expulsions, inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, and a genocide,and yet have lived to see another day. Jews have found hope in the most hopeless of situations.
Jewish optimism is reflected by our holiday schedule. Some like to joke and say that the theme of all the Jewish holidays is "they tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat". Actually, the joke is true. We celebrate Passover because we survived Pharaoh, Sukkot because we survived in the desert, Purim because we survived Haman, and Chanukah because we survived the Seleucid Empire. The Jewish holidays are all variations on a recurring theme. What is the purpose of this repetition?
Repetition has a powerful effect on character. The Sefer HaChinnuch says that the multiple commandments commemorating the Exodus are necessary because "man is transformed by his actions". Constant commemoration leaves a permanent imprint on one's personality. All these holidays with a repetitive theme remind us repeatedly that redemption is not a pipe dream. By consistently reliving the memories of past triumphs, Jews remind themselves,(to use the words of Ben Gurion,) that "in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles".
Even at the worst times, you can find hope by remembering the past. Yaffa Eliach recounts an improvised Seder in Bergen Belsen. Rabbi Israel Spira,the Bluzhover Rebbe, spoke to the children and quoted Isaiah's messianic vision: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned". He told the children they too could hope for redemption, to walk out of darkness into light. The message of this unusual Seder is one every Jew has heard repeatedly: redemption is possible, and you must believe in miracles.
The financial crisis has crushed too many people; every day there are layoffs and bankruptcies. But no matter how difficult the situation, we must never let go of our hopes. After all, in a few weeks they'll be another holiday, reminding us that if you want to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles.
Stop Thinking Like a Slave
Thank you to Lorne Lieberman for sponsoring his video, and Jacob Aspler for camera work