The story of Passover (Pesach) revolves around the redemption of the Children of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt. But the Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, also means “narrows,” and we can find new meaning in the story of Egypt, the rituals of the seder, and question beyond the usual four by considering what it means to be redeemed from “the narrows” for our ancestors back then, and for us, here in the 21st Century.
Just like the Israelites who had to overcome their own “narrows” before they could be redeemed from Egypt, our own paths are fraught with narrows to ford. The Israelites had to overcome more than 400 years of enslavement-style status quo before they were ready to even begin the path from Egypt. Why should they listen Moses, raised in the comfort of the palace as an Egyptian? “Who made you the boss of us?” they ask in disbelief, knowing that Moses intervention had only caused them more pain. Not even the plagues, showing God’s powerful hand with signs and wonders, had much effect in the beginning. In the end, the struggle to leave the status quo behind and ford the difficult road of freedom was as hard as a ship fording the narrows without going aground or sinking altogether.
Here in our time, we have our own narrows. Our paths, no matter what road taken have stumbling blocks, boulders, moats and vast seas ahead, any one of which can halt our forward motion. Can block us, hinder us, shackle us to a status quo we want to break. What are you narrows—the conflict within that holds us back from who we are meant to be? Pettiness? Negativity? Fear of taking that first step? Rejection? Trusting only the “conventional wisdom?” Reluctance to veer from the “talking points” of our political persuasion? Whatever it is that narrows our way—that is our Mitzrayim…our “narrows” to overcome.
During your seder this year, you might want to take a moment to identify (not publicly but in a reflective, quiet moment) those Mitzrayim that oppress you and everyone at the seder. And then, being your own Moses, pledge to find a way out of them for the year to come. After all, Passover is “Chag HaAviv”…the festival of spring, the time of renewal, rebirth, restarting life with a fresh outlook!