“This Passover is like the very first Passover. Where was it?” asked Ahoova, my Hebrew teacher.
“It was in Egypt! Everyone was in their own home, with just their families, afraid, while the angel of death was outside.”
Wow, this Passover is a lot like the first one. I was inspired to put some red paper below our Mezusah, as a symbol of our isolation, staying inside to avoid death.
While for many, Passover has been a time to get together with family, and along the way we have a seder to remember that once we were slaves in the land of Egypt. And if we are paying attention, maybe later we remember the disadvantaged, because we were once slaves in the land of Egypt.
The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means narrow place. The Zohar (the book of Kabbalah) made this connection because the Divine liberated us from a place of constriction, where as slaves we had little control of our movement. Like today. We are constricted in our movement.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov (1772-1822) said, “The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day.” Rabbi Nachman was talking about liberation from constraints we place upon ourselves. Those ideas, baggage, habits that keep us from being fully human, and seeing the humanity in everyone else.
Yes, I wrote “everyone.” That includes the invisible people who have been working in grocery stores keeping us alive, as well as those who hold political beliefs we find repugnant. Until we can put humanity first and foremost, the spiritual sickness that contributed to this calamity will not be cured.
Mussar makes this Passover special because it gives us tools to look inside, and practices to help escape from our own Egypt. This week, focuse on the soul trait of Alacrity/Enthusiasm. During this time of physical isolation, Alacrity can help us get going and face what we need to face, and then GET THE HECK OUT OF OUR OWN PERSONAL EGYPT.
As a mantra, here are a few good ones to consider
If now now, when? – Pirkei Avot 1:14
Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion – Pirkei Avot 5:23
What is one small action you can take to liberate yourself? For me, I’m going to reach out to someone special to me who is a bit distant from me, to focus on repair.
Mussar makes this Passover special because it gives us tools to change who we are, so we emerge from physical distancing a better version of ourselves. Who do you aspire to be?
The themes of this post were covered in the April 9th Mussar Community Gathering.
If you are not sure what is holding you back, I suggest taking the Soul Trait Quiz again to inspire you.