It has always amazed me.
After 210 years of slavery in Egypt, G-d "hears the cry" of His people, and sends Moses to bring about ten plagues about the Egyptians and free them from their bondage. In this week's portion, the redemption of the people of Israel finally begins.
But what about the emotional state of all of these slaves? What was God's plan? Did he ask Moses and his co-leaders to provide them with intense therapy after so many years of slavery and trauma? Did he offer them any psychological treatments?
Of this, we don't hear a word. But why this insensitivity to the people of Israel? Surely, they needed some sort of emotional support and psychological treatment?
The reason, I believe, shares a powerful truth: G-d and Moses were not being indifferent to the emotional state of their people. Instead, at the brink of their exodus, they focused on that which was vitally needed: actions, not feelings. Moving forward and focusing on the future, instead of standing still and analyzing the present.
Because, sometimes, the best way to deal with negative feelings, is not to deal with them. The best way to fight emotions that bolster despair is to engage in actions that bolster hope. The best remedy for a heart that feels threatened by darkness, is a Mitzvah, a positive deed, that reassures it with a Divine light.
So Moses tells his nation to put their feelings aside, offer a pascal lamb, eat it with their "cloak tucked into their belts, and their sandals on their feet. and their staff in their hands," ready to march forth toward redemption. Sure enough, their anxiety vanishes, their trauma, dissipates, and their confidence is regained.
The lesson is poignantly clear: at the end of the day, our actions, not our feelings, define who we are. We may experience all sorts of moods, but at the end of the day, it is a person's deeds that mold his life. A smile, a helping hand, a generous act can mold us and our lives infinitely more than the emotions of our hearts. In the words of Victor Hugo, the 19th Century French poet: "Our acts make or mar us - we are the children of our own deeds."
This applies to our Jewish lives too. For how many of us deprive ourselves of the gift of a mitzvah, just because we are scared? How many of us are reluctant to get involved, just because we are intimidated? How many of us are hesitant to move forward in our spiritual journey, with study, prayer, or a good deed, just because we are not "feeling it"?
So, if our feelings are holding us back with all sorts of excuses, we should just march forth, and do good.
We will be doing ourselves a favor that we, and the world, will surely benefit from, to eternity.
Rabbi Pinchas Allouche is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale.