The Passover festival begins at sundown this Friday, March 30 and continues for the next seven days. As it coincides this year with Shabbat, the readings for Passover take the place of the normal Shabbat schedule of readings.
Torah reading: Exodus 12: 21-51
Haftorah reading: Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2 – 6:1, 6:27
Passover is our festival of freedom, liberation, deliverance and release. We became free people, no longer enslaved to our Egyptian masters. We celebrate it with enthusiasm and joy and remind ourselves and our families that spiritual freedom is not a matter of geography but of inner liberation, something that every human being needs. All manner of things can enslave us: fear, worry, addictions, relationships and more but Pesach proclaims that freedom is available!
Being enslaved is a two-edged sword. There is the physical circumstance of slavery—the torturous existence of being subjected daily to the merciless demands of a tyrannical superior. But internal psychological slavery is far worse. It binds up and at times paralyzes its victim mentally and emotionally.
The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim. It means limitations, which we all have to certain degrees. For some, that may mean severe financial problems; for others, it could be serious health challenges. And for still others, it may be the burden of an abusive psychological environment. These are circumstances that can make us feel like slaves or prisoners.
But what about our internal shackles? Though we may have experienced freedom from certain things that held us bound in the past, perhaps there are still others which trouble us; things like fear of what other people think, traumatic events or even our own inability to forgive those who have offended us. Unforgiveness and bitterness, in fact, are two of the most enslaving emotions known to man.
Take the example of a woman in an abusive marriage who files for divorce. There may be a real sense of relief when she no longer has to live with the abusive spouse but is she just as free in her soul from the damaging effects of that relationship?
When the children of Israel left Egypt, we know they were at times tempted to want to return. They complained, they griped and they moaned against Moses and against God. The question comes to mind: Did ‘Pharaoh’ go with them?
Oh, surely they left Pharaoh behind in Egypt, but was he still having an effect over their lives? The answer is, of course, yes! He continued to have full control over their psyche.
On the seventh day of Passover, we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. The behavior of the children of Israel on that day reveals that though God had delivered them by means of amazing and powerful miracles, they still feared Egypt’s might and power. They panicked as Pharaoh’s army approached in the distance. It was only after the sea split—and they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore—that they finally experienced complete deliverance, not just physically but psychologically as well.
It’s easy to think of ourselves as free when we’ve overcome some difficult circumstance or limitation. We may be shocked, however, to discover that “Pharaoh” still pursues us even after we’ve escaped his Egypt. But the abuser closing in on us is the “Pharaoh” we’ve allowed to come with us in our thought life. I’m reminded of the saying you’ve probably heard, ‘It took a day to get Israel out of Egypt but forty years in the desert to get Egypt out of Israel.
So how do we eradicate these demons from our inner world? How do we live free of the personal Egypt within ourselves?
By asking God to split open our inner sea of fears, anxieties, worries, cares and addictions.
To split the Red sea, G‑d “turned the sea into dry land.” Deep beneath the surface of our lives is the power and grace of God which keeps us alive day after day. To transform the sea into dry land means to reveal that neither we, nor our world, are separate from God; that He alone has full control over our lives and knows what’s best for us; that He cares for us lovingly and leads us perfectly.
In Tune with Torah this week = Passover is a wonderful opportunity to ask God for total freedom from whatever troubles you. If you are plagued with worry and fear, ask Him for a new and deep understanding of His love for you – the love that drives out fear. If addiction of one sort or another is the problem, He IS the great deliverer. He is more than willing to set you free.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we have a “pharaoh” in our life but most of us do. Passover is the perfect time to “send him back to Egypt” so that we can move on to our Promised Land unhindered.
A blessed Passover season to you and shabbat shalom