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Home » Passover

Passover: Freedom from Limitation

Submitted by on November 2, 2005 – 2:55 amNo Comment | 1,192 views

Throughout the World

Passover commemorates the exodus of the ancient Hebrew slaves from Egypt, their subsequent forty-year journey through the desert, and their ultimate entry into Israel, the Promised Land.

There are Jews in almost every part of the world; their customs and traditions vary from place to place. Passover, is celebrated everywhere in largely the same fashion. From Melbourne to New York, Tel Aviv to Nepal, Tokyo to Siberia, Berlin to Johannesburg, Jews on this evening eat Matzah (unleavened bread), Maror (bitter herbs), drink four glasses of wine, and ask four traditional questions.

In this article I would like to pose an interesting question that has undoubtedly crossed the minds of many readers.

Why?

What is it about Passover that has captured the imagination of Jews for thousands of years?  Why do all Jews, on one night and throughout the world, choose to re-live the past?  To revisit ancient legends that have no impact upon modern day society? In short, what is the relevance of this ancient story?

I can fill many pages detailing the tragic history of Jews who have been persecuted throughout the centuries and have been miraculously delivered by the hand of G-d. I might argue that they celebrate Passover to thank G-d for the many miracles, not only from the ancient past but also from the recent one. I might further argue that this celebration is precisely why Jews have merited further miracles throughout history. 

But I know that in many a tragic episode miraculous deliverance never did arrive. Furthermore, in many cases, it was precisely the most pious Jews, despite their commitment and religiosity, who came to perish. Why do these Jews continue to celebrate this holiday?

Of course I might then argue that one cannot understand the mysterious ways of G-d and that Jews have accepted their suffering along with their miracles and are thankful for whatever they receive. But I choose not to make that argument. Instead, I unleash my arrow in an entirely different direction. Searching for new meaning in the Passover festival, I challenge the reader to look within.

Freedom from Limitation

Passover is a celebration of freedom. Not only freedom for Jews from ancient Egyptian captivity but also freedom for all mankind from all manner of limitation.  The Hebrew word “Mitzrayim,” Egypt, shared an etymological similarity with the Hebrew word “Meitzarim,” limitations. Hence, from a Hebraic point of view, the exodus from “Mitzrayim”, Egypt, constitutes an exodus from “Meitzarim”, restrictive boundaries and limitations.freedom from limitation - innerstream

By now the reader wonders why I advocate the dissolution of all boundaries. Are borders and boundaries all bad?   Aren’t they crucial to the human experience?  Is the ability to distinguish my space from yours, to differentiate proper from improper, correct from incorrect not essential in the development of a just society?  Would all not erode if we did away with boundaries and limits?

The answer to all of the above is yes, yes and yes once again.  However, I was not referring to societal boundaries but personal ones. We human beings are endowed with superhuman abilities that allow us to accomplish the seemingly impossible. For example, a mother single-handedly lifts an automobile in order to save her child that has fallen underneath.

But only in times of crisis do such superhuman abilities come forth. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we could call upon these hidden strengths whenever the need arose?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could marshal these hidden reserves every time we wanted? The exodus from Egypt grants us the ability to accomplish just that. 

Exodus = Motivation

The Exodus was more than a simple redemption of slaves from captivity; it was the beginning of a new era. For the very first time in history, righteousness prevailed over brute strength. At that very moment a precedent was set, a path was paved; a new chamber opened within the collective soul of mankind.  Today, the potential is there for each of us to call upon stores of hidden strength generated by that one moment in time.

How is such potential generated? The answer is best served by way of analogy.  An overweight person complains of his inability to lose weight. Then one day, a compelling motivation presents itself.  The impossible is somehow accomplished:  He sheds weight like a caterpillar sheds skin. How is it accomplished?  His motivation has set him free.

The holiday of Passover celebrates that very motivation. Righteousness prevailed in Egypt against all odds and if it happened there and then, it can happen again here and now. It is this knowledge that sets us free. This motivation is so powerful, so compelling that it liberates the potential with which we have all been endowed. Inner doors are unlocked. Access is provided to the very core of human strength, to the inner chamber of human ingenuity, to that quiet inner place where spirit and Divine Creator merge and become one.

Egypt out of the Slave

This gives us the strength to follow through on every resolution we make.   No longer need we make the excuse “I tried, but couldn’t find the motivation to follow through.”  

So what of our original quest for relevance in this ancient celebration? In ancient times, we celebrated the exodus of the Jews from “Mitzrayim,” Egypt. In modern days we celebrate the exodus of mankind from “Meitzarim,” limitations.

It’s easy to take a slave out of Egypt.  But it’s much more difficult to take Egypt out of the slave. Happy Passover!

This Essay was published in the London Free Press before Passover 2002

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