We recognize that the Exodus story in the Torah, like all biblical narratives, is more than just a historical or political tale of physical bondage and ensuing liberation, it is also a spiritual and psychological drama. The exodus represents the human potential to liberate itself from slavery — be it physical, mental, or spiritual.
Let us explore some of the inner dynamics of slavery and freedom, some of the fundamental questions concerning freedom. What is the value of freedom? And why do we desire it so? How do we find it?
We are forever in search of freedom; it is the timeless quest for emancipation that lies in the heart of every human being, and yet it remains forever out of our reach. We think to ourselves: if only this or that would happen, then we would be free. We claim we just have to put this or that in order first. We never give up seeking it even as it remains seemingly just out of our reach, even if we have crossed the barrier that we thought was in our way.
A natural human tendency is to worship that which we have become comfortable with. We worship our habits, attitudes, patterns, inclinations and routines, simply because we have become accustomed to them. We want to enjoy a god that fits into our comfort zones. We know the ways we are enslaved, whether it is to money, to fame, to an addiction, to another person.
Life is about challenge, mystery and growth. We ought not say, “This is the way I am. I am comfortable with this world view, any other way must be wrong.” Rather, we ought to challenge every instinct, convention and dogma. Don’t let your life become enslaved to a pattern just because it has “always been that way.” Don’t let your soul be confined by external conventions. Be open to sublime transcendence at any moment of your life.
Techiyas Hamaysim will take place in the month of Nissan. This tells us that our task is to bring ourselves to life. We must always be searching for the other half of the Afikomen.
The 4 cups of wine correspond to the four leshonos, terms, of Geulah, of redemption.
Vehotzaysee –I took you out Vehitzalti –I rescued you Vega’alti –I redeemed you Velakachti eschem Li le’am –I brought you to Me to be My people.
The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means straights, constraints, obstructions – representing the forces that get in the way of a person becoming who he or she truly is. We each carry our own private mitzrayim within us, a seeming restricting force that prevents us from living fully, from actualizing our lives. It may be fear, anxiety, insecurity, arrogance, addiction, dishonesty, laziness, envy, or despair. Our personal obstruction may stem from difficult experiences, health problems, dysfunctional families, financial difficulties, or the death of a loved one. Such life challenges can induce in us a state of psychological exile, keeping us stuck in a quagmire of hopelessness, torment, and paralysis, prohibiting us from fulfilling our potential.
Pharaoh, the king of Egypt symbolizes the inner king of obstruction – that inner voice of power that invariably ensures we remain shackled to our individual enslaving patterns.
We might question: how much inner harmony must we achieve in order to obtain psychological freedom? Do we need our inner “Pharaoh’s” complete consent?
Often we abandon the effort for inner freedom as we realize we can never completely rid ourselves of our inner demons, our pharaohs. We surrender to lives of “quiet desperation” (in Thoreau’s famous words) since we cannot have total inner integration. Thus we remain filled with inner strife and conflict.
Judaism is actually more tolerant of human foibles and does not necessitate the obliteration of all darkness and negativity within the human heart. We have only to continue our struggle of avoiding evil and recognize that fluctuations are normal. That is why we have Torah and mitzvot, to help us to be in accord with the highest level of morality and spirituality. We must allow for our humanity. The Torah, as we know, was not given to the angels, but to us imperfect human beings. There will always be an inner demon (pharaoh) attempting to convince us why we should remain an addict, in the abyss.