To the dismay of my parents and the bewilderment of my wife Susan’s parents, we sailed our family from Los Angeles to Honolulu on our small sailboat a number of years ago. We spent nearly a year in preparation. Susan planned the meals for the entire voyage and wrote down where each item of food was stored, while I strengthened the vessel and polished my celestial navigation skills. We departed on the Fourth of July and by mid-month we were about a thousand miles from the west coast of mainland United States and the same distance from Hawaii.
That night, as usual, I measured our water supply and in an exhausted state after too many hours on watch, mistakenly determined that we had only one more day’s water left. In a terrible panic, all I could think about was how would I keep my family alive till we reached Hawaii. In my mind that became the only problem.
However, in reality all the other challenges of crossing the Pacific in a small boat hadn’t vanished; they’d merely been eclipsed. I still had to locate the tiny speck of Oahu in a vast ocean; we still had to feed our crew, and we still had to avoid collisions. But in the middle of that dark and frightening night I could only think about what we would drink.
Stress makes it easy to ignore all the other important parts of life. In the dark gloom of financial need, family relationships are easily sacrificed. We neglect physical exercise in the gnawing worry of want. Whether its source is health, finances, family or something else, stress has a way of looming large enough to overwhelm all other parts of life. The annual Passover holyday offers a clue for coping.
The Egyptians enslaved and oppressed the Jews. You would have thought that God would get them out of Egypt as quickly as possible. Yet first, each Israelite family was to take a lamb, roast it and prepare for the first Seder. You’d have expected a chorus of protest from the Israelites: “C’mon God, get us out of here—there’ll be plenty of time for lamb barbecues once we’re in the desert.”
Instead, they first had to sit down for the formal Passover meal, each father at the head of his own table. Why couldn’t this family celebration have been postponed? Furthermore God instructed the Israelites to go and gather all the money owed them by the Egyptians. That had to take quite some time. Yet no Israelite is recorded to have said, “Forget about the money, God, just get us out of this Egyptian hell-hole.”
In order for the big problem of slavery and oppression to be solved, we first had to address smaller problems like religious ritual, family affirmation, and yes, money. During centuries in Egypt, just surviving put people under so much pressure that families fell apart, finances fell apart, and they seldom connected with God through religious practice.
God’s Passover statement was, “Look, I’ll get you out of here but you need to do your part too—first recapture all the important aspects of life which you’ve neglected. Fathers get back to building your families, reconnect with God, and focus on the finances.”
If you have a big problem, keep on the program with the other stuff. Take care of your body and take care of your relationships with family and friends. Keep your spiritual life healthy as you chip away at your financial challenges. Don’t let stress in one area eclipse the rest of your life. Solving money problems won’t be easier if you lose your health. Resolving family dilemmas won’t be easier if your finances go south. And nothing will be easier if you write-off your relationship with God. This the theme is the focus of our free eBook, The Holistic You.
Oh, and that water problem on the boat? Well, I remembered the ancient Jewish wisdom I have imparted here and realized that sacrificing sleep was going to leave me less capable of dealing with the problem; not more. I prayed, and in the process of moving my mind away from the problem onto my relationship with God I recalled that every can of fruit and vegetables on board contained some liquid. That already sent me to bed with an easier mind.
When I awoke I discovered that I had measured the water level incorrectly and we had plenty of water after all. When tackled as part of the bigger picture, some problems even vanish.
Messages like this one permeate both the festival of Passover and the unique annual Seder experience. If you are curious about more themes, check out The Seder Set, which we have put on sale as the holyday approaches.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Thought Tools post.
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