In captivating poem style, teacher Rabbi Shmuel Wagner takes us on the journey of the battle between ‘myself’ and ‘I’, and epiphany that comes by the seder on Pesach night.
I schlep myself through the front door,
I feel less alive than dead,
“Work today was hard,” I say,
As I beeline straight to my bed.
Thinking all about my job,
That I am my boss’s slave,
Not able to do what I really want,
Oh, how freedom I crave!
Hmmm, the word “Crave” ignites,
Neural pathways in my brain,
I stand and go to get myself,
Some of that magical grain.
Because, you see, the only way,
That I keep myself sane,
Is when I consume in vast amounts,
The fruit of the sugar cane.
I cannot function without it,
In abstinence I feel afflicted,
It brings out the very best version of me,
So I’m more than fine being addicted.
[Now, before I continue this tale,
Let me make one rule clear,
“Sugar”, of course, is a metaphor,
To any addiction out there.
So, to personalize this journey,
And to make the Farbrengen real,
Substitute “sugar” in this story,
With any addiction you feel.]
I gather my nosh, lie on the couch,
Horizontally flat on my back,
I eagerly numb my tortured thoughts,
As I pound through my sugar snack.
Ahh! This is so purely sweet,
The sugar, the liberation,
Doing what “I myself” want-
Shoot. The conversation:
I might have just confused you,
So allow me to clarify:
There is this battle raging within,
Between “Myself” and “I”.
“Myself” wants to live a good life,
Attracted to things to enjoy them,
The real “I” however is deeper than that,
A Neshama directly from Hashem.
Back to our story, I’m still on my couch,
“Myself” is enjoying the high,
The sugar saved me from being a grouch,
But it’s not satisfying my “I”.
And now that “I” has my attention,
It’s starting to make me feel sick,
“The sugar does not help at all,
The high goes as it comes – so quick!”
“Myself” does not give in fast,
It replies as sharp as it could:
“Why do you make the solutions look bad –
Sugar is what makes me feel good!”
This battle is really wearing me down,
I’ve no strength to get involved,
So I down another gram of sugar,
Cuz I don’t see how it can be solved.
My wife asks me to help clean for Pesach,
I oblige cuz I’ve finished my snacks,
Suddenly I realize Pesach is coming,
And I freeze right there in my tracks.
Uch, Pesach, I sulk and I brood,
Instantly I’m in a terrible mood,
Forgive me Hashem, I don’t mean to be rude,
But why can’t we eat processed food?!
Fast forward through all the long prep,
We’re now sitting around at the Seder,
And of course my son pipes up with that Vort,
I was expecting it sooner or later:
“Tonight is the night when we are released,
From everything that holds us back!”
My sober mind now suddenly explodes,
My thoughts at once all attack.
Maybe it’s true, what “I” always says,
Sugar is not good for me,
Although “Myself” wants it; it makes me feel good,
It stops the real “I” from being free!
It could be I’m sad, down and dejected,
And the sugar gives me a high,
But I’m enslaved to the sugar, dependent on it,
So how can that be a free “I”?!
Just like I hate when my boss forces me,
In a certain way to behave,
The sugar is forcing me to feel good,
It’s artificial – AND I AM ITS SLAVE!
I’m sitting by Maggid, my mouth opened wide,
This epiphany was now official:
On Pesach we don’t eat processed foods,
We reject anything artificial!
As I snap to attention,
My brain in a knot,
My son is still talking,
Sharing his thought.
I was lost in my brain,
So all that I heard,
From my son’s sentence,
Was the “Comfort” word.
Comfort? That’s a good thing!
I wanted to hear,
The rest of the sentence,
That my son would now share.
“Comfort zone is the opposite,
Of living truly free”,
Ah, that’s the answer!
I now have clarity.
Although “Comfort zone” sounds,
Like a place where to be glad,
It holds back real growth,
And that means it’s bad!
Although sugar sounds
To be a comfort treat,
It stops me from being me,
So it’s at best bittersweet!
But still, “Myself” argues,
Even bittersweet has a sweet ring,
So why am “I” telling me,
Sugar is a bad thing?!
We’re continuing the Seder,
And my son asked a question,
I don’t know the answer,
He caught my attention.
Maror means bitter,
We eat it because,
Of the bitter life of slaves,
Which in Egypt was.
So why for the Mitzvah,
Is Romaine lettuce the Hidur?!
Why not just horseradish,
Which is real sharp and bitter?!
It’s an excellent question,
But the answer, he said,
Is exactly how slavery,
Rears its ugly head.
Yes, lettuce is sweet,
But that’s just in the start,
After it hardens,
It’s bitter and tart.
That is how slavery,
Comes to approach us,
It doesn’t look bad,
It pretends to come coach us.
Like Pharaoh who started,
Off as a friend,
Only once the Yidden gave in,
It showed its bitter end.
Presented not as a problem,
But as the solution,
We don’t realize the slavery,
Is bitter persecution!
And that’s why we use lettuce:
We make sure to always know,
Temptation must be identified
Not as friend, but as foe!
I was fully attentive,
The answer I wanted to hear,
It was so sharply on-target,
I almost fell off my chair!
That’s right! I cried out,
From the depths of my soul,
Sugar is not my friend,
It leaves me broken, not whole!
It doesn’t bring out my best,
It just makes me smile,
But that happiness is not mine,
So it doesn’t last a while.
I can only be happy,
When “I” am truly on fire,
Which, as a Yid, can only be,
Doing what Hashem does desire.
Dear friends, I tell you,
That Seder changed my life,
“Myself” and “I”,
Were now no longer in strife.
As the week of Pesach followed,
I went through a detox,
Free to serve Hashem,
Not stuck in a “me-box”.
Because I finally realized,
What I was missing all along,
Was the strength to identify,
Right as right, wrong as wrong.
No matter how sweet
Sugar would seem to be,
It’ll never make me happy,
Because it’s not the real me!
Sugar is bad,
As dirty as litter,
It’s not even bittersweet,
but like lettuce: sweetbitter!
Doing what “Myself” wants,
Does not make me liberated,
When I can escape my sugar,
“I” am sweetly emancipated!
Drinking four cups of freedom,
I finish Pesach on a true high,
I’ll try to keep this up through the year,
Getting to know my true, free “I”!