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This week, I am inspired by an essay written by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman, a neighbor of mine from Ramat Beit Shemesh. The following is my adaptation of his essay, titled THINK.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707- 1746) known as the Ramchal, was one of the greatest minds of the 18th century. He learns from this week’s parasha a phenomenally wide-reaching and fundamental life lesson from Pharaoh’s reaction to his first encounter with Moshe. And Pharaoh commanded...'Do not continue to give straw to the people in order to make bricks...they will go and gather straw for themselves. And the quota of upon them do not detract from it because they are being lax therefore they are screaming to say 'We will go and slaughter to our Lord' (Ex. 5:6-9)."

The Ramchal explains that Pharaoh essentially wanted to overburden the Jews with so much work that they simply would not have time or energy to think about freedom and redemption. They would be so busy and worn out that they would be completely unable to even entertain any wishful thoughts of hope for a brighter future. The Ramchal points out that this is actually the very same hurdle that blocks the path of so many of us from achieving and actualizing our spiritual potential. We allow ourselves to become so busy that we literally never have the time or the peace of mind to stop for a moment and think!

How often do most of us take even a moment or two to just think? Whether it be with business, school, dental check-ups, grocery shopping, travel plans...or anything and everything; somehow or other we all find so many ways to keep ourselves completely occupied all day long. And how much more so in our high-speed, instant-everything generation! We are always rushing from one thing to the next. Not long ago, we would go from our palm-pilots to our cell phones to our laptops, etc. And now, with the advent of smart phones, i-pads etc., we don't even have to do that; we just go from app to app, from site to site, from e-mail to e-mail...the pace is dizzying! Our technological gadgets have become our constant point of focus.

So when do we ever have time to just think? "Think, you say? What do we need to think about?" Well, how about, for example, to review in one's mind whether the way one spoke to one's coworker this morning was polite and respectful or rude and demeaning. "What? Me, rude and demeaning, no way! I'm a good person!" The truth is that these thoughts are not far at all from what we all actually do think about ourselves, and for very good reason. In order for the human being to be able to function in a healthy way, he/she has to be able to feel good about him/herself, to have a positive outlook on who he/she is. At the same time, though, we all intuitively recognize that if we spend our whole lives lulling ourselves into a peaceful fantasy that we are Mr/s. perfect, we are going to get nowhere.

To think - to regularly engage in contemplation and introspection - is a necessary tool to maintain an ongoing, organized, deliberate process of growth towards attaining purpose and meaning in our lives through proper observance of the mitzvot. It is imperative, if we are to live truly human lives, that we make a point to find the time and peace of mind to review our lives. And all the more so if we are to live a truly Jewish life! We have to think to ourselves, "What did I do today? What did I do yesterday? How did I behave this week? Is my relationship with my spouse what it ought to be? With my children? My friends? My neighbors? Do I speak to them in a kind, dignified manner? Am I improving in controlling my temper? If I have improved, what can I do to get even better? Am I growing in how I relate to Hashem who is constantly providing me with my every need? Do I have a relationship with Him at all? If not, what can I do to take the next step in the right direction? Do I take the time to speak to Him and thank Him for what He does for me? What might have I done wrong today that needs correction? How can I go about correcting the wrong, and/or avoiding the pitfalls that led me to doing it? What did I do right today? How can I ensure that I'll keep up the good work? Which mitzvot am I carrying out well and how can I ensure that I continue doing so? Which am I performing less than perfectly, or perhaps not at all, and how can I rectify these shortcomings?" These thoughts are a drop in the ocean of what is available and incumbent upon us as human beings, and certainly as Jews, to contemplate and deal with.

The results of actually setting time to think and introspect are truly amazing. Our relationships will enjoy positive growth, our self-control will strengthen, our prayers will improve, and our character traits will become more refined. We will start to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.