A note to our readers: The Jewish celebration of Passover takes place over the next eight days. For each day of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, we will offer a devotional reflection tied to this very special observance as well as Torah readings for each day. Since no work can be done during the holiest of these days, these devotions were prepared in advance for you.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” — Exodus 20:2
Today is Day 4 of the eight-day Passover celebration. The Torah reading for today is from Exodus 22:24–23:19.
Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Believe it or not, one day, according to Jewish tradition, God will want to know.
The Jewish sages teach that there will be a series of questions each person is asked when his or her time on Earth has come to an end. Among those questions are “were you an honest person?” and “did you make time to study God’s Word?” One of them is also “did you anticipate salvation?” In other words, were you an optimist? Did you anticipate that things could get better and that God would help you?
You may be thinking is that really fair? How can God expect us to have a rosy outlook on life all the time? We all know people who seem to be born that way – always smiling, always with a cheerful disposition. But then there are some who seemingly have been born on the opposite end of the spectrum. As one person once said, “I don’t just see the glass as half-empty instead of half-full. I see the glass as half-empty and worry that someone is going to come along and knock it over!” Some of us are just drawn toward thinking negatively. Is that really a crime?
The sages teach that according to the First Commandment, the answer is yes!
Remember the First Commandment in its entirety? “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). More importantly, think about what is not said in this commandment. God does not refer to Himself as the Creator of the world, even though that might have been a more obvious choice. Instead, He commands that we know Him as the God who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Why? Because we are commanded to know God not just as the Creator of the world, but as the Savior of our individual lives!
We are commanded to believe in a God who hears our prayers and cares deeply for us. We are instructed to believe in a God who can and will help us out of our own personal bondage, our own trials and difficulties. So can God command us to be optimistic about life? Yes, because to believe in the God who took the Israelites out of Egypt is to believe that God can perform miracles for us, too! He expects that level of faith and commitment from us.
So next time you come across that proverbial glass, don’t see it as half-empty or even as half-full. See it as filling up and believe that it will run over! As it says in Psalm 23: “my cup overflows” (v.5).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President