This Pesach, I asked the guests seated around the table an open-ended question: How do you strike the balance between changing in different situations that come up in life and when do you stay consistent? The answers reflected each person's view on how to lead life. People suggested four main answers.
1. It depends on if what I am doing is good or bad. I look at what I am doing in contrast to what could change. Then I either stay on course or change if it'll be better.
2. Everyone has to know themselves. Some people need to remind themselves they have to stay on course and follow the previous plan and not change, while some people need to think about possibly changing in this situation. Basically, one should be in tune with one's self and know what to do in each situation.
3. A person needs to stay consistent to create good practice and behavior.
4. Successful people are successful because they stay consistent. Therefore one needs to stay consistent.
All of these ideas are true. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, of blessed memory, the head of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin in New York, explains the reason why holidays are called Rigalim. These festivals cause us to change our daily routine and adopt new schedules for each holiday. When we change our daily schedule in honor of the holiday, we engage in our core commitment to G-d and connect in other ways. This shows real desire and search for spiritual growth.
A similar idea applies to marriage as well. A couple who love and care for each other look for ways to connect even as time goes on and life brings change and new situations.
It is fascinating to note that the three main holidays, Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot, each require us to make a major change in our lives. Man’s basic needs of food, shelter and sleep are challenged for each holiday. For Pesach we adopt new eating habits when we replace our staple of bread with matzah. On Sukkot we leave our stable homes and eat in a sukkah with a roof open to the elements. On Shavuot we stay up all night learning Torah to show how we are willing to give up sleep for the study of the Torah.
Making these changes for each holiday strengthens our commitment to Torah and mitzvot, showing our commitment to G-d in every situation.
Recently a 35-year-old neighbor of mine passed away. Doctors believe he died from having practiced the keto diet for many years. Certainly this is tragic and sad. I also took a lesson from this. At times, changing our diet is helpful as a short time boost, while a consistently healthy approach is best for long term.
Even though matzah is considered a humble bread of belief, we are not commanded to live the whole year this way. Holiday mitzvot temporarily reawaken our spirituality and focus on different aspects. Then, when we go back to our daily routine, we live on a higher level because we have engrained within ourselves our consistent desire to connect with G-d.
May G-d bless us all with a year of consistent growth in our connection to G-d in every aspect of our lives.
Rabbi Gavriel Goetz is head of school at Yeshiva High School of Arizona.