Amazing Lessons from the Exodus from Egypt

Friday, 13 January, 2023 - 7:56 am

The Bible/Torah is not a history book. If you wish to study the chronicles of the Jewish past, there are much better books to purchase or loan from the library. Likewise, the Torah is not a nonfiction novel. The best way I know how to describe the Torah would be its literal translation, to teach, as Torah means lessons or teachings. Viewing these sacred writings as simple stories misses the point and is on an elementary level. The problem of Hebrew schools is that they only go to a certain age and therefore the Torah is usually taught at a basic story level as entertainment. Every single story recorded in the Torah is not there to amuse, but rather to give us insight and inspiration in order to live a life with meaning.

The Torah devotes hundreds of verses to the “story” of the Exodus. Each verse literally contains a wealth of information beyond the literal story line. I will attempt to capture just a few of the brilliant, deeply psychological and highly inspirational insights and teachings.

In the Passover Haggadah, there is a paragraph that begins with, “We are obligated to recall our going out of Egypt every single day of our lives.” What does this even mean? Do we need to think about walking out of Egypt into the desert every morning or is afternoon enough? You have probably read this a dozen times and never thought about it.

One of the most beautiful explanations that answers this has to do with our definition of Egypt. If we view Egypt simply as a geographical place on the map, then bringing it to mind every day seems silly, unless, of course, you are invested in the Egyptian stock market. However, if you view Egypt as a psychological state rather than a physical one, then there are lessons to be gleaned from the exodus.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” which literally means “limitations.”
We all have our limitations. Some are self-imposed and some are imposed by others. We also have fears and phobias which prevent (limits) us from fulfilling our potential. Then there are toxic people who have hurt us terribly, and we obsess over them and cannot move on from the pain. I would be remiss if I did not mention our childhood scars caused by some dysfunctional event that we cannot seem to get beyond and is holding us back from living. All the above-mentioned scenarios are classified as psychological Egypt. We are restrained and controlled by our feelings, thoughts and emotions. We are incarcerated in our own bodies and are slaves to the whims of negative thoughts.
Comes along the Haggadah, which declares: Wake up! You are destroying yourself from the inside out. You are allowing people to live in your brain rent-free. It is high time you live to your full potential and stop letting others dictate your destiny. Don’t let anyone be in control of you, and never be a slave to your or anyone else’s negative thoughts. It is not enough for one to give oneself an Egypt well being check up once in a while. Rather, you have to be vigilant every day to assure that negative habitual thinking does not rear its ugly head as it has done in the past.          

Likewise, slavery should not be relegated to one definition as defined by Webster’s dictionary: “The state of a person who is held in forced servitude.” When we think of “forced servitude,” we think of people who were mercilessly sold on a butcher’s block in chains, against their will.

One of the Torah’s teachings is to clarify that forced servitude can also be where you feel stuck because you are not in control of your life. Take for example the scenario that I hear often from some of the women I know. “My husband is so busy helping his company be stable financially, that he is unable to help me physically let alone emotionally.” The bottom line, If you find that your work gets in the way of normal living as a human with a soul, and you are unable or unwilling to do anything about it, then you my dear friend are a slave, as you are not free and most definitely not in charge of yourself and your life.

I often quote the following litmus test of whether you run your work or your work runs you. If you can stop what you are doing and get yourself to your child’s play or sports game on time without regret or rancor then you run your life. However, if you say to yourself, “I need to meet with so and so and then I will go, or when I finish the final draft, I will close up the office,” you need to know that you are trapped and have become a contemporary slave to your boss, computer, printer and cellphone.

The mystical book of Tanya asks one to ponder the following thought process. I have taken the poetic license to elongate the process.

Q. Why do you work?
A. To make money

Q. Why do you need to make money?
A. To buy the things that are needed.  

Q. What things do you need to buy?
A. Shelter, food, water et al.

Q. Why do you need all that?
A. To live.

The Tanya concludes, ultimately, you are not working for money, you are working to live. Therefore, if that very work disrupts you from living, then things have become topsy-turvy, your priorities have been usurped, and the tail is wagging the dog!

Do not be a slave to anyone or anything. Try to stay free.
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