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Inflated, Deflated and Healthy Egos

Thursday, 22 March, 2018 - 5:08 pm

The most important “ritual item” at the Seder is the Matzah. We eat Matzah because that is what Hashem commanded us (even before we left Egypt – along with the original Pesach lamb), as well as to commemorate the exodus and the dough they carried out that did not have the opportunity to rise. Conceptually Matzah is also associated with humility, as it is dough that is not allowed to rise.

If bread that rises is connected to an inflated ego, then it would seem that even more compelling that Matzah should be bread made from a grain that cannot rise at all on its own, such as rice or millet. Yet the Talmud clearly instructs that a grain that cannot become Chametz (leavened), may not be used to make Matzah. Only grain that has the potential to rise can be used for Matzah, in which rising is restricted. This is an interesting wrinkle in the arrogance vs. humility dynamic.

With respect to grain there are three possibilities, grain that cannot rise on its own, grain that can rise but is restricted from doing so, grain that can rise and does. Similarly when it comes to the ego there are three possibilities. There is an inflated ego (Chametz), a deflated ego (grain that cannot rise), and a healthy ego (Matzah).

What is the difference between the deflated ego and the healthy ego? Deflated ego is reflected in people who do not possess a sense of self-worth. They are lowly in their own eyes. These types of folks cannot achieve much. A “healthy ego” would be people who are aware of their positive qualities while at the same time recognizing that they are gifts from G-d and nothing to boast about. These are people with a strong sense of self-worth and the confidence to accomplish their goals.

On Pesach our job is to rid ourselves of arrogance and inflated ego, but not to get to a state of lowliness. Matzah is the perfect balance. In fact Chametz – inflated ego, is often as much as an indication of lack of self-worth as lowliness. It is just that in this case, the ego is inflated to compensate for the missing confidence, whereas in the case of a deflated ego the result is lowliness. A healthy state is the one where people have the confidence to do what Hashem wants them to, without letting it “go to their heads.”

We are not doormats. We are empowered by G-d to accomplish a lot and change the world. Yet we are always cognizant that the empowerment comes from Hashem alone, and we therefore do not attribute our successes to ourselves. Sometimes we need an ego check to ensure that we are staying on track. That is one of the dimensions of the Pesach holiday.

If you are still looking for a place for the seders, please contact Rabbi Nemes at Chabad Metairie – 504-454-2910 or rabbi@jewishlouisiana.com.

Wishing you a kosher, happy and meaningful Pesach!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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