This article on the portion of the week was originally published in 2017.
“Hidden within the patterns of your personal history is a code that once deciphered reveals the meaning, purpose, and direction of this life.” – Carl Jung
"It is within the patterns of our life that we find our purpose."
It is within the patterns of our life that we find our purpose. There’s a popular movie from the early 1990’s called Groundhog’s Day. It’s a comedy about a man who becomes stuck in a loop where the same day repeats itself. Each morning, Phil awakens and its February 2nd all over again. No matter what he does, he cannot seem to progress to the following day. At first, he sees this as carte blanche to do whatever he pleases. However, it’s not long before Phil becomes disillusioned with the state of his repetitive life and attempts to end it all. Still he inevitably awakens on the morning of February 2nd.
It is in Phil’s exhaustion and hopelessness that he begins to contemplate his place and purpose in the loop. He understands that he can use the repetition the universe has provided him to make himself and the world better: He learns to speak French, play the piano, and after witnessing the death of a homeless man, creates a plan to avert this and other disasters from happening. It is only then that the cycle is broken.
It’s a funny and clever film, but perhaps the greatest reason it has become such a classic is because it speaks truth to our soul.
"Once we recognize the moments that repeatedly pop up in our own movies, we can seize them for the gifts they truly afford us."
Each of us has our own “Groundhog’s Day,” an unpleasant situation that continuously repeats. Maybe we leave one job to get away from our tyrant of a boss only to arrive at a new one where the boss is an even greater nightmare. Many people divorce their spouse only to end up marrying the same kind of person with similar shortcomings years later. What is this phenomenon that sees the universe placing recurring patterns before us? And more to the point, how do we break the cycle?
The kabbalists had a name for these patterns: tikkun, indicating that which we have come back to correct. Each lifetime may afford us several chances to accomplish our tikkun, to learn the lesson and make the inner changes necessary for our spirit to progress along its journey. Once we recognize the moments that repeatedly pop up in our own movies, we can seize them for the gifts they truly afford us. For instance, maybe the reason one is faced with a tyrannical boss is to find the areas where they themselves lack kindness and mercy with others, or perhaps it is to learn to stand up to an authority figure if that has been a persistent problem throughout one’s life. If someone finds themselves dating or married to the same kind of person time and again, it could be to learn how to accept someone’s shortcomings and love unconditionally, or it could be simply to start looking outside the box! This is a deeply personal spiritual work; only you can recognize the patterns, and only you can decipher what they are meant to teach you.
"There is a pattern to our hardships, and that pattern is called opportunity."
In this week’s portion of Va’era, Pharaoh finds himself in a loop of his own making. He experiences ten plagues, one right after the other. He could have prevented the plagues, if only he had learned what he came to learn, and let the Israelites go. Still, after each plague is over, Pharaoh does not acknowledge the Creator. Still he feels this is his domain and he will not release the people. Like Pharaoh, we too can find ourselves making the same decision several times over before we realize a need to change.
The unique energy of this week is one that can assist us in discovering our own cycles, empowering us to make a genuine start towards inner transformation. It is so easy to fall into the trap of asking "Why do these things keep happening to me?" and yet in the movie Groundhog’s Day, it was only when Phil used his misfortune to make himself and the world better that the curse was broken. Of course, Pharaoh’s story has its cinematic ending too… but well, that’s another movie.
The truth is, there is a pattern to our hardships, and that pattern is called opportunity.