Prince’s death on the eve of Passover has touched a spiritual nerve for me. It took me a while to understand why a felt a connection between Prince and Passover. Then the phrase came to me: Prince was never a slave in Egypt. Let me give you some context.
The Torah refers to Egypt as “the narrow place.” It was a stage in the history of our people when our spirits were oppressed and confined by slavery. Spiritual oppression is severe – it saps the mind of will and the body of strength. We were limited in our choices, and did not feel empowered even to try. The “narrow place” transforms a story of physical freedom into a story of spiritual liberation.
In listening to the story of Prince, I heard a story of the fight for freedom. Remember when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol? It turns out he did that because he felt oppressed by a recording contract. Warner, which owned the rights to his music, only wanted one album a year. Prince wanted the business to serve his music, not his music to dance to the tune of the business. Unable to get out of his contract Prince changed his name in protest. He even wrote “slave” on his face. (See it here).
For Prince, changing his name, and cranking out a flood of albums to fulfill the contract was liberation, was an escape from his narrow place. If the company owns the name Prince, I’ll change my name so they don’t own me. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that “the Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day.” Prince intuitively seemed to understand this. You are either growing and setting yourself free from what is holding you back, or you are still stuck in Egypt, in that narrow place. The connection between Prince and Passover is the story of spiritual liberation.
President Obama reminded us yesterday that Prince once said “A strong spirit transcends rules,” and went on to say that nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.” Sounds like a freedom we all can aspire to.
Good night sweet Prince.
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Image by Jimi Hughes from Ballymena, Northern Ireland via Wikimedia Commons