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Jewish Journal

What am I a Slave to?

by Beit T'shuvah

March 29, 2013 | 1:18 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I hope everyone’s Seders were fulfilling—spiritually, emotionally and gastronomically! As I went through the Haggadah, I was struck by how many of us don’t take seriously the line: B’Chol Dor V’dor…. In every generation, each person is obligated to see him/herself AS IF she/he were brought out of Egypt.  This line, for me is what makes the Seder relevant and is a message from the Sages that no one should get so haughty as to think that they are free of all their inner and outer demons.

I shudder when thinking about this. How many people feel trapped/enslaved by their jobs, families, or responsibilities? How many of us are trapped by old feelings and emotions of negative self-talk and old tapes from childhood? How many of us are trapped by denial and the lies we tell ourselves? Each of us has some “narrow place” that constricts the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and, possibly, the physical flow of life. Yet, we hide from all of this. Why?

The reason, I believe, is that we have set up our lives based on these traps, enslavements, lies, denials, emotions, etc. We become more afraid of seeing ourselves at all, than of staying in Egypt! Depending on how one understands the Hebrew, either 20% or 50% of the people left Egypt. That’s right, at most half of the people stayed in Egypt and I learned that the number is 80% of the people stayed in Egypt. The same is true today; 20% of the people doing 80% of the work is a maxim spoken about often. I would suggest that only 20% of the people who attended Seders this past week, “saw themselves as if they too were brought out of Egypt.”

Herein lies the problem most people have with redemption. We cannot think about redeeming ourselves and others as long as we stay in Egypt. There are those who are enslaved by the Pharaohs of this Century and time and there are those of us who are enslaved by inner Pharaohs and societal “norms.” Which are you? All of these visions/experiences lead to hopelessness and despair.  Hopelessness and despair lead us back to, and even deeper into, Egypt, a vicious cycle.

I still get trapped by my intolerance, impatience, fears and blindness. I work hard to leave them each year and I do better in these areas each year. This year, however, I see myself as if I have been brought out of the Egypt/narrow place of recognition. While I like being recognized, I am not trapped by this being a need anymore. I work each day on my demons because I believe that each day I have to remember that God has brought me out of Egypt to live and appreciate the “sublime wonder of life” as Rabbi Heschel says. I can’t do this without doing the work to stay out of Egypt.

I am addicted to Redemption because without Redemption, I go back to Egypt. Without seeing myself as if I have been brought out of Egypt, I am stuck in old behaviors and thoughts. Without asking myself “What am I slave to,” I easily fall into the trap of false ego and false pride. Without the daily maintenance and growing of my Redemption, I can’t live my authentic life script and God’s purpose for me.

Moadim L’Simcha,
Rabbi Mark Borovitz

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