BY RABBI LOUIS FELDSTEIN / AJT //
As I write this, we find ourselves at the exact midpoint between the beginning and end of Passover. The thrill and excitement of the seders has long passed, the taste of matzah has grown bland and the menu list of items in the pantry is stale.
For those who observe a Passover-related diet for the full holiday, the unique and special feelings associated with Passover are just starting to get a bit exhausting. Four days there were, and now four days there are to go. The light at the end of the holiday tunnel is a mere flicker, not yet bright enough to illuminate the pizza and Chinese food that awaits us at the end of the holiday.
This period – the days between the first two seders and the last, known as Hol HaMoed – serves as a fascinating metaphor for life and the dynamic ways in which we as individuals and organizations experience change. In a way of speaking, Hol HaMoed is the middle of the marathon – the weight loss plateau, the morass – which individuals and organizations confront whenever they move from one state of being to another.
In every effort for change, the initial sense of excitement driven by motivation soon fades, and we become painfully aware of how much more we have to do to achieve our true objectives. To illustrate:
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At the seders, we felt an incredible high as we reenacted and relived the exodus from Egypt. But then, after the table was cleared and the guests had long departed, we were met with the reality of simply doing and living Passover.
Sailors used to call this time – when the wind has died down, the momentum is lost and energy is at its lowest – the “Horse Latitudes.” It is that time during the conference (usually after lunch) when attention spans are measured in seconds; it is that time when Betty White needs a Snickers bar.
Hol HaMoed is this holiday’s equivalent to those “Horse Latitudes.” It’s the time when we look ahead, craving the chametz of life but knowing that to reach that destination we have to keep persevering through the drudgery and discomfort of matzah, matzah and, yes, even more matzah.
Change parallels this experience. But those successful in their efforts to change also must recognize that, throughout the process, we cannot look just to the end goal; we must also find successes and triumphs to reignite our enthusiasm and excitement throughout the experience.
During Passover – and in particular during Hol HaMoed – those “wins” can be realized through the discovery of a delicious new recipe or a celebratory Shabbat (note that the calendar is perfect for the latter this year). While on the surface these may appear to not be significant, we know from our successful attempts at change that it isn’t the size of the success that matters, but the recognition that we continue to achieve, grow and change.
Some of us need to trim off a few pounds. Some need to perform better in school, others to change jobs. And so too with the organizations we work for or volunteer with: Some need to change how they interact with their clients and/or members, others to reexamine their products.
But whether we are speaking about ourselves or organizations, the constant remains the same: change.
Change is not easy. Successful organizational change has a likelihood of less than 20 percent, and New Year’s resolutions are kept by less than 50 percent of the people after the first six months. The reasons are obvious: Change is difficult, with the most challenging of times being after the excitement wears off and the hard work becomes the norm.
HaMoed Pesach – those days of Passover when grabbing a donut would be so easy – help us understand and grasp the lessons of change. We can make it. We can go for just a few more days.
We can keep up the change that the holiday demands, because we know that the feeling of accomplishment is so grand.
Just a few more days. Don’t give up.
Rabbi Louis Feldstein is the CEO of Dynamic Change Solutions, LLC, an organizational enhancement and change management consulting firm focused on the non-profit and faith-based sectors. He also serves Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville and is a member of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.