In each and every generation, each person needs to personally experience the redemption from the enslavement in an ancient Egypt . . .
-From the Passover Haggadah
The essential invitation of the Passover season is the call to awaken not only to the historical experience of enslavement, but to the ways we are stuck in our lives right now. We are called to transcend the limiting stories that we have wittingly or unwittingly accepted for ourselves, and to take the next step toward our personal and communal evolution.
In the ancient story, related in the Book of Exodus, our enslavement was so deep that we were not even fully aware of it. We had lost our identity and forgotten the fuller nature of our being; we had forgotten that we could live in any other way. Then, like now, the pain sometimes gets severe enough for us to cry out, and it was that outcry that began the process of our redemption. At first, when we awakened to the pain, that was all we knew. In the story, we were not even able to hear the possibility of freedom that Moses revealed to us. Our anguish was too great, inhibiting our ability to see beyond it. The vision that Moses presented finally pierced the shells of our forgetting.
Awakening to the possibility of a freedom that transcends our current self-definition and leads us beyond our current story and role in life is really an inside job. It requires remembering that we are more than our current story, that we are more than the limitations we have accepted. Moses provided for us the paradigm of such awakening when he met the Presence at the burning bush in the wilderness.I am convinced that his meditation in the wilderness included the intrusion of a Light that shattered the field of reality he perceived. What got referred to as the “burning bush” was more like a radiance threatening to consume the whole of reality. The Light burst forth with unlimited energy to awaken him to the fuller dimensions of his own being.
From that Light he heard a call to greater purpose and meaning in his life: he was to lead a people from enslavement to freedom. When he asked the Voice for its Name, he heard: Eheyeh asher Eheyeh, I AM as I AM. He awoke to the absolutely unlimited “I” that is the ground for each of our individual identities. He met the “I” through which the deepest meaning always flows.
Acting from the authenticity of that greater Identity, Moses brought an integrity to his actions that was beyond question. When we awaken to the call from an Identity behind our identity, from the Self behind our individual self, we, too, step into greater authenticity. We move beyond the desire to serve our lesser selves, and find meaning in serving others. We awaken to the ways in which we are called to serve.
Each year, the energies of Passover call me to the next level of transcendence. Sometimes I want to read that word, trance-end-ness, reflecting the need to awaken from the current trance of forgetfulness and of limitation. Our task is to become conscious of the state of our current stuckness, the ways in which we have identified ourselves with the current conditions of our lives and believe ourselves limited by them. We are called to remember, and to open to greater purpose in our lives.
For me, the Passover is a Jewish observance, but it also speaks a universal message meant for all. This focus on the rebirth of meaning is reflected in many great spiritual traditions, and we can learn from each other and be supported by each other. For those who wish, matzah is available at food markets, and you don’t have to be Jewish to experience unleavened bread and symbolically release the puffed-up claims of ego. With the energies of spring, we share a universal human yearning to open to the greater flowering of our being.
Sarah van Gelder interviews the Interfaith Amigos.