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Boxing with Pharaoh

Boxing with Pharaoh

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I just knocked out Pharaoh. He put up a good fight—I’ll give him that. But I beat him fair and square.

It all started at the end of a long day. I was already half beat by the time he stepped in the ring. My work as a labor coach had kept me away the whole night at a complicated and exhausting birth. I came home, utterly depleted, to a houseful of kids who needed their mommy. Within five minutes of my arrival home, my work was spelled out for me: physical and emotional boo-boos needed tending, bruised egos needed soothing, sippy cups needed filling, and I was handed a note asking to please send my daughter with fifteen bags of popcorn to school the next morning. Not to mention a sink full of dishes that needed their mommy, and piles upon piles of laundry in serious need of intervention.

“You can hardly cope with what you have.” Jab-jab.By the grace of G‑d, I managed to get the kids down for the night without too much fuss. I was about to crash when Pharaoh showed up all smug and obnoxious, throwing rabbit punches at me from the side, in an effort to throw me off my mental game.

“You take on way too much.” Jab. “You can hardly cope with what you have.” Jab-jab. “You’re hanging by a thread, Girlfriend.” Uppercut. “You are failing.” Ouch.

I bobbed and weaved around his hooks of negativity and self-doubt for a good long while, almost believing his threats that I might never amount to the person I desire to be. Then he threw a power punch of fear right to my belly, and fear, for me, is always the last straw. The fear made me realize it was time to start defending myself. I tell you, it was touch-and-go there for a while . . . but in the last round of my inner battle with my own personal Pharaoh, I found my stride and I knocked him out cold with a strong and powerful punch.

In the end, it was a prayer that helped me through it.

We have a Torah directive that instructs us, in every generation, to feel as if we have personally left Egypt. I have no trouble relating to the “Egypt” part. We’ve been taught for years about Egypt being beyond just a physical place, but rather a very mental and spiritual place of limitation, confinement and slavery. That part of the directive I get. The piece that I struggle with is the “leaving” part. Getting myself into that limited and destructive state of mind, I do just fine. It’s the getting out part that does me in.

When I find myself trapped in my own self-inflicted Egypt, I tend to share that space with a variety of fierce Pharaoh personas: Fear, Doubt, Anxiety, Defeat and Depression, to name a few. And, try as I may to exile them from my life completely, they seem to have no trouble gaining entry at my most vulnerable moments. But tonight, I managed a swift victory. Here is the strategy I used.

First of all, I have a wise and dependable ringside coach. His name is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who is more affectionately known as “The Rebbe.” Given that my inner Pharaoh was of the self-destructive variety, the fight to get rid of him demanded spiritual cunning and skill. And whenever any of the abovementioned personas decide to set up residence in my impressionable brain, the Rebbe’s teachings have always guided me towards strength and victory over their dominance.

Tonight, my personal Pharaoh was trying to enslave meSo, tonight, my personal Pharaoh was trying to enslave me to the thought that I am not good enough, that I am not fulfilling my responsibilities as a parent or a wife or a homemaker (and by the way, I never will). And them are fightin’ words.

So, I picked up a book of collected teachings of the Rebbe (compiled and interpreted by Tzvi Freeman) and turned to a page at will. I opened to the chapter called “Struggle” and I “happened” upon this thought.

It read: “You are the master over the animal within, not the slave. Just because it burns inside like a furnace doesn’t mean you must obey.”

How can you do anything but smile at a thought like that? Just the knowledge that someone out there recognizes my struggle gives me faith that I am not alone. My smiling already starts to weaken Pharaoh’s confidence. When I start to smile, he knows I’m not taking him too seriously. He shrinks when I start up with the joy thing.

Then I start laughing, because, come on, how perfectly synchronized is the Rebbe’s quote? Thanks, Rebbe. And once I start to laugh, a whole new group of defenders started to file into my brain . . . old friends, really. Faith, Purpose, Strength, Confidence, Determination, Gratitude (all of whom have been issued frequent-flyer miles in hopes of ensuring lots of visits, if not permanent residence).

After my little laugh, I take a deep breath, and start to apply the Rebbe’s words. I re-examine my current reality . . . I take good care of my kids, my husband loves and supports me, I am good at my job, I live a life of purpose and I am grateful. Okay. So I haven’t failed, and I can cope; I am just tired and overwhelmed right now.

To combat the exhaustion, I draw a hot bath and crawl into bed with the understanding that the dishes and laundry will most certainly be waiting for me tomorrow. I close my eyes, take another deep breath and deliver a sharp right hook to my inner Pharaoh that knocks him right out of the ring (at least for this round).

When I invite G‑d into my battles, the fight disappearsMy secret punch is an honest and heartfelt prayer to G‑d. “Please, G‑d, help me be the person You intend me to be. Help me to find You everywhere.” And with that, Pharaoh and all his nagging, horrible faces vanish.

I half expect my inner referee to announce, “Wait a minute, folks, Pharaoh is regaining consciousness. He’s moving, he’s getting ready for a comeback. . .”—but he didn't.

When I invite G‑d into my battles, the fight disappears. When I let G‑d be with me, there are no opponents, no heroes . . . just peace.

I drift off into a blissful and much-needed sleep, feeling in control of the few things that I can control . . . my mind and my attitude, for starters. Pharaoh can’t get near me unless I leave a door open. And for now, with G‑d’s help, the door is closed.

Sarah Zadok is a Jewish educator and lecturer, a childbirth professional and a freelance writer. She lives in the Golan Heights with her husband and five children.
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Discussion (11)
April 4, 2012
Thank you
Beautifully written and comforting content. You are a wise and very talented woman. Thank you
Anonymous
Minnesota, usa
August 26, 2009
Wow
Dear Sarah, I've never met you or talked to you but I feel like the road of "leaving Egypt" we are walking together, hand-in-hand. Only you've managed better to fight your own Pharaoh, while I'vehad a hard time escaping his clutches until recently. Your article just hit it home with a smile! It was for me was what the Rebbe's quote was to you. Seems like no matter what experiences we go through, the "building blocks" of the Pharaoh's tricks are the same for all people, across time. And Torah gives us the tools to deal with them wherever we are.
Thank you for teaching, support and hope you extend through your writings.
Chaya Sara
Brooklyn, NY
April 28, 2008
Thank you
Really great article! Really hit home-we are all in this struggle together and Hashem is helping us out of it as well! Chag sameach!
ahuvah
chabadfoxchapel.com
April 25, 2008
We all are cells of one body
Dear Sarah,
You verbalized my thoughts! It's amazing, we are absolutely different, with different background and different life style, but we function as identical cells of the same bodyThank you for bringing this issue to the point. Keep having ease and security for the best of your life with G-d's help!

Meira Lerman
League City, TX
chabadtexas.org
April 18, 2008
Power to our righteous women!
Sarah, I feel like you are holding my hand in helping me get out of Egypt! No wonder it is written that only in the merit of the righteous women were all the the Jewish people redeemed. Certainly in our times the same truth applies. It is almost 4am on erev Pesach and I felt I needed to get my mind in the right space for this upcoming chag. Your article is totally resonating inside me and I feel like I've just imbibed a life-giving potion. Thank you so much and Chag Kasher v"Sameach! May we all merit to eat the Korban Pesach together in Yerushalayim!
Racheli Metal
Las Vegas, NV
April 17, 2008
Todah Rabah (Thank you)
With your article, I gained inner peace, and outer smile, and deep serenity.
Kayo
Tokyo, Japan
April 14, 2008
Knock out punch!
This was not only inspiring but so filled with truth! Men as well as women can relate to the pharaoh who tries to steal our identity. our peace of mind and heart. Thank you for sharing this and the wisdom of someone who walked there before.
Jeanne
Derby, NY.USA
April 14, 2008
Your Article
I opened my e-mail and your article was there, I opened it and decided to read. Thank you, for your inspiring article it was as if G-d "hand picked" what I needed to read at that moment.
Tovah Feldman
boca raton , florida
April 14, 2008
boxing with pharoah
I enjoyed and was inspired by your article. Where can I find the Torah directive for every generation to feel like they just left Egypt?
Robert Cooper
Michigan, USA
theshul.net
April 13, 2008
gift from G-d, perfect timing
I needed to read this - I'm battling my own inner Pharaohs as well, and I will remember your insights and strategies. I help run a volunteer sports program for children with special needs, on top of the needs of my home, husband and two children (one with special needs). The jabs come from others, and the jabs come from my own doubts especially. Your article is a keeper!
Kim
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