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 me from being fully alive.
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.
Some commentators have sought 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 Arab Spring's steps toward freedom. The Passover story led to decades of being in a literal and figurative wilderness. A new consciousness is birthed with birth pains for each of us.
Sustainable freedom engages the questions of what we want to be freed from and what we seek freedom for. The last six decades are 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 about being fully alive for all.
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 becoming free of a small vision of you. The destination of that vision is not the solitary you or me. 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 outrage about a few things. I have a visceral physical response to the stories of young girls and boys 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 this new slavery. I feel anxious about the upcoming decisions from the Supreme Court on the freedom to marry for same gender couples. How much longer will this civil rights issue be denied to those of us who are lesbian or gay and those who love us?
I could choose to remain constrained by stewing or muttering about those two issues. My Passover practice is to choose to be informed and make my voice heard, recommitting to bridge building that seeks commonality between people. Every act joins with those of others in collectively repairing and 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 or second class. My inner outrage then turns outward with acts and words of loving hope.
My vision of myself 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 but moving beyond the physical constraints was about creating a new freeing narrative of what it meant to be a people.
Passover invites me to pay attention to my place in the narrative of spiritual consciousness. My own liberation from the narrow places in my life shifts my spiritual positioning system. Polishing the world disrupts the assumed routines of 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 disrupting surprises of oneness with others.