Passover celebrates the Exodus – the journey of moving forward from slavery in Egypt to liberation. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is mitzrayim which means “narrow straits.” Egypt is a metaphor for any narrow place of hardship and oppression. The ancient metaphorical Egypts in which people can find themselves trapped are many – unhealthy relationships, unhealthy jobs, unhealthy ways of living our lives. The first step to freedom is the acknowledgment that we are unhappy with where we are.
“This is not right,” we might be saying. “I cannot continue on this path. I need to make a change.” The journey begins from that place – from saying aloud those very words.
The journey to liberation continues by taking physical steps toward creating change. The diet, the exercise, the resume, the therapy, the venturing to a new class, to a new place, to a new space. The journey to freedom requires walking to unknown places. My father, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, of blessed memory, once wrote,
“Our lives are a wilderness,
uncharted and unpredictable—
untimely deaths, unexpected blows,
unsuitable matches, unfulfilled dreams.
And yet, by gathering our heartaches…
[together with others],
we find something transformative happening—
our sorrows become windows of compassion.
Paths through the wilderness,
hewed and marked by past generations,
give us our bearings.
Patterns of meaning and significance emerge.
We are moved from self-pity to love.
Our individual heartbeats merge
with the pulse of all humankind.
Suddenly we no longer tremble like an uprooted reed.”
Our unsteady steps are steadied and grounded by reaching out. We found the strength for the journey from Egypt by taking steps not alone, but by reaching out to and walking with others.
Jewish tradition teaches that on the 7th day of Passover, the Israelites crossed through the sea and sang freedom’s song. Crossing through seas is scary. Will the waters remain parted or will they crash down upon us and knock us to the ground? Jewish tradition teaches that on the 7th day of Passover we made it safely to the other side. The Egyptian armies who had followed us into the waters drowned in the sea. We were finally free.
Our first response was to sing a song of redemption — a freedom song call the Mi Chamocha. As we sang, we acknowledged God’s immense role. Yet we know that we were co-partners in creating our freedom. Had we not taken steps forward, we never would have become free.
In Judaism, our redemption song was sung not just one time and in the past. We sing it every day — twice a day. We sing the Song at the Sea annually at this time – on the seventh day of Passover. We remember our oppression and the narrow places where we once stood. We remember our journey. We remember our fear. We remember our freedom. We remember our song.
3330 years ago yesterday we were said to have crossed through the sea. Still daily we sing our freedom song. The song is meant to encourage us and to inspire us. As overwhelming as the challenges in our lives and world seem, new seas can be crossed. We can cross them ourselves and we can help others cross them, too.
Reb Nachman of Breslov teaches, “The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day.”
Photo by Ryan Moreno