To be free of a narrow consciousness is the invitation of Passover. I’m not Jewish but the rituals and journey of Passover restore my balance and also disrupt my spiritual positioning system. It’s about freedom from those things that constrain us being human.
For many Jews, Christians and others, the story of the people of Israel fleeing oppression in Egypt is a touchstone of the narrative in the arc of human freedom. It was a unifying metaphor in the Civil Rights movement, giving sustenance to those on the ground. The Exodus narrative shaped the movement in claiming the higher moral ground of inclusion.
In recent months commentators seeking to explain the movements for freedom in the Middle East have attempted to connect those aspirations to the arc of the Passover story. It is too early to tell whether the higher moral ground of inclusion will shape the new Egyptian and other Middle Eastern steps toward freedom. The Passover story led to decades of being in a literal and figurative wilderness. A new consciousness is slowly birthed.
Sustainable freedom engages the questions of what we want to be freed from and what we seek freedom for. The twentieth century is replete with triumphant liberation movements resulting in one form of tyranny or repression being replaced by another. Clarity about “freedom from” without imagining “freedom for” is not freedom. It is often an abusive rearrangement of privilege and power. The Civil Rights movement was liberation from Jim Crow laws toward a promised land of freedom in which to realize equality. It was an invitation to a new consciousness.
The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim meaning a narrow or constrained place. The mystics teach that the liberation of the Hebrew people is a metaphor for freedom from a narrow consciousness, becoming free of a small vision of you. The destination of that vision is not we alone. The purpose is to recognize the sacred in others. In this view Passover is about the Exodus in the particularity of becoming awake to those things that keep us from oneness with others.
This is the consciousness that leads many Jews to speak of repairing the world – tikkun olam. It is the practice of connecting the dots between your personal spiritual grounding and living it out with actions. The Hebrew prophet Micah describes these actions as doing justice, loving mercy and walking lightly or humbly on your journey. I call it polishing the world.
Preparing for my own observance of Passover I’m aware of my frustration and indignation about a few things. I’m appalled by suggested Medicare reform jettisoning vulnerable elderly Americans to a world of wolves in which medical care will be a distant memory. I have a visceral physical response to the stories of young girls, boys, men and women purchased to be slaves in the sex industry. The scale of this human trafficking, abroad and in the USA, makes my mind reel with questions about law enforcement and ending the violence and abuse of this new slavery.
I could choose to remain constrained by stewing or muttering about those two issues. My Passover practice is to choose to be informed and then act to make my voice heard about human trafficking and supporting access to health care for the elderly. Every action will join with those of others in collectively polishing the world. It is about freedom from devaluing the lives of some and freedom for oneness expressed in honoring the humanity of those deemed disposable.
My own vision of my self becomes more fulsome in discovering I am one with you, with others. In the Passover story Yahweh did not talk in the abstract about freedom. It was freedom yearned for in the pickle that was Egypt; liberation from injustice was the presenting cry; moving beyond the physical constraints was about freedom to create a new narrative of what it meant to be a people.
Passover invites me to pay attention to my place within the narrative of spiritual consciousness. My own liberation from the narrow places in my life shifts my spiritual positioning system. Every Passover that attentiveness shift invites me to polish the world in unexpected ways that disrupt my life.
Freedom, liberation and exodus from Egypt did not come without courage, disruption and surprises. Our own liberation and freedom is discovered in the disruption and surprises of oneness with others.
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