"I resolved not to play video games for the next five years," my thirteen-year-old brother said rather quietly.

The pleasant din of our Shabbat dinner conversation came to an abrupt halt.

We were all back from summer vacation, sitting around the table sharing our experiences and the highlights of the past few months. Apparently none were as startling as his.

"You did what?" we all asked in a variety of words and decibels.

He had our undivided attention as he began to explain.

"That's ridiculous," piped a realist, "and not at all feasible.""We were at a farbrengen (chassidic gathering focused on self improvement), and the speaker elaborated, among other things, on the importance of spending one's time wisely. A few of us were so inspired that we resolved then and there, to the excitement of those in attendance, to refrain from playing video games."

"No more games for you until you're eighteen," someone quipped.

"Ha, that's nothing compared to some of the others," he responded. "One friend said he'll quit for ten years, and another vowed to stop forever!"

"That's ridiculous," piped a realist, "and not at all feasible. He should have chosen a smaller amount of time if he was serious about this."

"I disagree," said an idealist, "I think it's beautiful that a boy of that age is mature enough to make such a long-term decision."

The pragmatist: "My point is that it's not long term…"

Thus began a lively discussion which continued well into the night.

The wheels of exodus had begun to spin; the sweet scent of freedom was in the air. But the Israelites weren't quite ready yet. They were bare of merits1 and still covered in sinful grime. Desperately in need of cleansing, they were commanded by G‑d:

"On the tenth of this month, each man shall take for himself a lamb… You shall keep watch over it until the fourteenth day of the month… [when] the entire congregation of the community of Israel shall slaughter it in the afternoon. They shall take of the blood and put it on the doorposts and lintel of their homes."2

What does the slaughter of a sheep and advertising of its blood have to do with spiritual purification?

Breaking an Addiction

At the time of our story most Israelites were members of the many temples scattered throughout Egypt—worshipping a smorgasbord of deities, all but their own. Spiritual seekers by nature, the Jewish people had become deeply attached to their idols. Infatuated with paganism, they eventually became addicts.

Spiritual seekers by nature, the Jewish people had become deeply attached to their idolsFor reasons almost unfathomable, at the top of the idol-worshipping chain was the sheep. In Egypt of old, the sheep was served by people, rather than (sheep-forbid) to people...3

So greatly were these animals venerated that it was life threatening to cause them harm, as evidenced from Moses' argument4 when he tried to negotiate with Pharaoh a holiday for his people. In response to Pharaoh's words: "Go and sacrifice to your G‑d in this land," Moses replied, "It would not be proper to do so for it is the deity of Egypt that we would sacrifice to our G‑d..." Social etiquette aside, it would be suicidal—"...if we were to sacrifice the Egyptian deity before their eyes, would they not stone us?"

The rationale behind G‑d's command to slaughter a sheep and post its blood for all to see now becomes crystal clear.

For is not crossing over to the other extreme and doing away with that which one once couldn't do without the best cure for an addiction? Could there be any better way to renounce and denounce their old obsession with sheep, than through publicly killing one?

By painting its blood, the source of its vitality, on their doorposts, in effect they were saying: "The idols we once thought to be the source of life are themselves lifeless!"

Moreover, their sincerity and allegiance towards the G‑d of their fathers was being proven by their willingness to endanger themselves in order to fulfill His will. Only by risking their lives to do His bidding, could they truly come clean.

It was this blood that adorned their doorposts that later distinguished them from their Egyptian neighbors at the time of the plague of the firstborn and earned them the immunity they were provided.

New-Life Resolutions

One question still remains:

The Israelites were commanded to prepare the sheep on the tenth of the month and to slaughter it four days later, on the fourteenth. Why the four-day interval?

More disturbing: why prolong the risk to the Jews' lives?

But that's precisely the point.

We must never confuse inspiration with transformationFor if the process was instantaneous, its effects would last no longer. If they were to only sacrifice themselves while still "under the influence" of the awesome display of G‑d's strength, they'd wake up "hung over" and hurting.

We must never confuse inspiration with transformation. The former comes easily, the latter does not. As the saying goes (or comes), "Easy come, easy go."

So, it was in the Jews' best interest, which is dearest to G‑d, that they be given extra time to think things through.5

This time allowed them to look at the sheep tied to their beds through sober eyes. Just imagine: In the morning when they woke up and at night before retiring, and probably many times in between, they were forced to look at their ex-deity—and then look themselves in the eye and ask whether or not they were ready to make the huge transition they had planned.

What an emotional roller coaster they must've been made to ride—forced into a room with their dark but alluring past, made worse by the baa-ing of their old god.

But this facilitated real closure.

What's in It for Me?

Without planning there is no plan.

When you measure yourself against your resolutions, you aren't limiting your growth and contributions—you are maximizing them. Even gold can be too heavy to carry if not cut down to size.

The leap of faith is very important, but not without a landing pad; the difference between skydiving and suicide is a parachute.

This is not about undermining the leap; it's about underlining the before and after.

Inspiration, when internalized and worked through, becomes the basis of transformation.6