The Hebrews/Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years before Moses lead them out.
Their lives were not easy, to say the least. They were slaves… so their very existence and day-to-day living was brutal and burdened. The word “burden” is even used when Moses notices his “brothers” for the first time.
And think about how often we use the word “burden” in our own lives… those things that weigh us down, block us and hold us back… or perhaps in its stead we use the words: issues, problems, obstacles, troubles, etc.
Thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld for a class on this part of the Chumash last night. There will be more insight from him later.
I remember meeting with Rabbi Paul Kipnes when I had a rather heavy issue I was dealing with, and he used the situation in Egypt as the very analogy for what I was going through.
He said that the Jews were slaves in Egypt for hundreds and hundreds of years before they called out for help. Why?
His answer hit me hard, like a slave master’s whip…
Far too often, we accept the pain and fear we know, because the fear of the unknown is even stronger… scarier.
The Hebrews knew the brutal work load of slavery… the sounds of the crack of the whip, the screams, and the horrible feeling of intense and unimaginable pain, as flesh was ripped by those very whips.
And yet they stayed… did not call out for help… did not or could not escape… until Moses came to lead them out from their bondage.
With Shlomo last night, we discussed Moses’ killing of the Egyptian and looked at it both literally and metaphorically. Moses was a Jew, and yet he was raised as an Egyptian Prince, thus putting his own body and mind in conflict with each other… He was split… and when he “killed” the Egyptian, it was also him killing that Egyptian part of himself… embracing his true brothers… embracing his Jewish identity… and becoming a leader, albeit a reluctant leader, of the Jewish people.
This idea, according to Shlomo, comes from his friend and Jewish scholar Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, a fascinating and controversial figure and someone I definitely need to know more about. That moment is the precise moment when Moses choses his path… uses his free will to stand up to injustice and fight for his own people. He kills one side of himself, in order for the other side to be free, open and out into the world.
Life in the desert, as we know, was not easy, and lead many to question their decision. This is true for all of us and in life in general.
A decision to quit a job, leave a marriage or move into an area of unknown can be terrifying… and those initial moments, or even for a long time in between, can be or seem to be even worse than what we left behind.
But trust in Hashem… Faith in Hashem will keep us strong and moving forward. Life can and does get better. There is true beauty in the desert, and perhaps we’ll find a better life there! Or something better once we make our way through that desert.
Rabbi Paul gave me this prayer to get me through, and I would like to share it with all of you, for we all have times when our burdens seem too heavy…
“I come to You, O G-d, for Your help. You dwell within my heart. You feel my distress. You know my pain, and how burdened I am. Give me strength to bear my burdens with courage, wisdom and grace. Help me to be true to my better self, to discern my real work in life, and to do it with all my might. When I struggle within my own heart, stay by my side. Then I shall be able to say with Your prophet, ‘But those who hold fast to the Eternal shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31)
May my work, and the ties that bind me to family and friends, make life rich in meaning for me, so that each day I live may be yet another step leading me nearer to you. Amen.”
Let us all lose the bonds of slavery, but gain and strengthen the bonds of friends and family. Let us lose the literal chains that keep us trapped and in place, and celebrate the chains that keep us together with our loved ones, our spouses and our children.
And to leave you with one more quote that Shlomo shared with us last night…
Let us all “In a place where there are no men, endeavor to be a man.”
(Pirkei Avos, 2:6)
I think the reason the Exodus is so compelling, so timeless, and that we are commanded to say, “Brought ME out of Egypt,” is that each of us has our own personal enslavement that we need deliverance from. Just as each Hebrew in Egypt’s experience with enslavement was slightly different, so do our own personal enslavements differ. Just as none of them could leave bondage alone, but needed divine assistance and a leader to help them, all too often we too feel powerless to free ourselves. Jews had to learn to trust Moses and Hashem and to have faith before they were ready to leave. When they did, they were able to walk out of Egypt, something they couldn’t even have conceived of doing before.
Over and over, in my own life, I need reminders of the Exodus to help me to see those places in my own life where I’ve simply become accustomed to my bondage rather than trusting Hashem and seeing the possibility of freedom. Thank you for this reminder!