Many of us are dealing with serious life issues or have close family or friends who are facing a formidable challenge – be it a life-threatening illness, chronic joblessness or a critical lack of parnassah; infertility; a problematic marriage or an inability to get married. And like Lucky, we allow the negativity to beat us down and mire us in crippling despair. We worry that we will succumb to the illness and die; or that we will never get married, have children, or that we will always be overwhelmed by debt. But it is the icy fear; the demoralizing pessimism, the “cup is half empty” attitude that destabilizes and enslaves us. Our lack of self-confidence undermines our resolve and minimizes our fighting spirit and, tragically, our belief that “we can’t overcome this” can result in the actualizing of our worst case scenarios. Lucky might have the intellect, the knowledge, the resources to get out of his hell, but his passiveness, his non–resistance, his defeatist attitude has caused him to lose his battle.
Vladamir and Estragon are not as far gone as he – but they too are unable to be defiant, to stand up and challenge the status quo. Instead they wait for Godot, bored, confused, and mired in a repetitive, dead-end existence.
Ironically, the actor who plays Vladimir, Shane Baker, did not let reality get in the way of reaching what arguably was a seemingly unreachable goal. A gentile raised in the Midwest, Baker took on the daunting task of learning and immersing himself in Yiddish language and culture and translated Waiting for Godot into Yiddish. This non-Jew did not succumb to the negative voices -no doubt including his own – that insisted he had a “goyische kop” and would not have the incredible sitzfleisch (patience and fortitude) and knowledge to translate an entire play into a language not his mamaloshen.
While we wait for Moshiach, we are expected to take a proactive approach to improving ourselves and our lot in life. As the sage Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?… If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14)
The battle, whatever shape or form it comes in, is never easy to overcome. But we must not let fear, depression or negativity hamstring our resolve. At the end of the day, no matter what the outcome, you know that you tried. Hashem will decide your ultimate destiny – but at the very least, you gave it your best shot. That in itself makes you a winner.