The Exodus from Egypt. It’s an old story that is as fresh in our collective memories as if it took place last year. There were no cell phones or cameras to capture the intense moments of those last days in Egypt, our righteous leader, Moshe Rabbanu leading us across the sea or of our enemies’ demise, but we can picture it all in our mind’s eye as if it were a modern feature film. How can we connect our exodus from ancient Egypt with our lives today? Do we each have a personal Egypt and a personal desert?
There are different opinions of what our lives were like in ancient Egypt. Some say that in the beginning, we had a good life. We were successful, accepted and physically comfortable. We fit nicely into Egyptian society, but then towards the end, life became ugly, cruel and violent. The Egyptians turned against us, made us slaves, abused and killed our children. All of the sudden, our rose-colored glasses were shattered and the magic of Egypt disappeared into the shifting sands of the blistering desert. We wanted out. We remembered who we were and cried out to our Gd. Surely this Gd who loved our ancestors would remember us and deliver us from our misery. Gd saw our tears and heard our pleas for help. He sent us Moshe Rabbenu. It was easy leaving Egypt. Our hosts were not so eager for us to leave, so it took quite a bit of work on the part of the Almighty and Moshe Rabbenu to convince the Egyptians and Pharaoh.
You know the story, I don’t need to repeat it in its entirety here. We left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, escaped our ungracious hosts and were finally FREE. We sang and danced with Miriam as she played her tambourine. We rejoiced in our new found freedom and praised the Almighty for His loving kindness and deliverance. Well…..for a while, anyway. Reality set in quickly and the excitement of freedom wore off. We were really free, but what did that mean? Who was this Moshe? Could we really trust him? Was Gd really going to speak to us and take care of every need that we had? What was this cloud by day and that pillar of fire by night? Manna? What was that? Why did Gd limit us on how much we could take of this new food that fell from heaven? Everything seemed so strange.
Wait! Where was Moshe going? For how long!? No! He can’t leave us! Why did Gd have to talk to him for so long on top of the mountain? What were the laws that Moshe said he was going to bring back to us? The uncertainty was frightening to us. Moshe was gone for what seemed like such a long time; our men panicked. They remembered something from Egypt to calm our souls; foreign deities. The men made a golden calf and they played familiar music, danced and engaged in decadent behavior that was unfitting to our people, but it was what was familiar out in the desert where faith vanished like a mirage.
Our Personal Egypt
When we are delivered from our personal Egypt and we are in the desert alone, we might get lonely and long to return back to a place with which we are familiar even though we know that something great lies ahead. We see the open miracles and consciously know that we are on the right path, but at night when we are alone in our own individual tents, we hear the howling in the desert of our minds and hearts….the howling of doubts and fears. It’s then that we long for what we left.
Much like in the physical desert, we suffer from short-term memory loss. We have a tendency to forget the reason we left our Egypt, and only choose to remember the leaks, garlic, and fish that we had in abundance. It all becomes a distant memory hidden in a cloud of uncertainty and confusion.
“Maybe it will be different if I go back. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was….Maybe…..”
But, there is no going back…. there is only going forward to the future and the land of promise that holds a brighter tomorrow.
We mustn’t complain, look back or question our deliverance.
There are those rare times when we are granted a rare glimpse as to the madness that we left in Egypt, just in case we were toying with the idea of returning.
We can’t enter our personal promised land if we stay put in the desert, or, Gd forbid, return to Egypt. So, we keep walking in spite of the fear, tears and the emotions that whirl through our souls like a sharav (sandstorm) in the desert. Returning to Egypt is NOT an option!