Helping everyone to leave their Egypt
Shayna Rehberg on how to make sure no one is left behind in slavery
This year’s seder was, without a doubt, the best one in my life so far. I had the great pleasure of spending the first night of Passover with over 25 chevre (participants) on Livnot’s current week-long program. Not your average Birthright extenders of the summer, these guys and gals have been in Israel for a while already, most on MASA programs. Still, for most this was their first traditional Shabbat and holiday experience.
They did a great job of preparing for the seder; cooking and cleaning, preparing skits and WoWs (Words of Wisdom) to share. Questions were encouraged and rewarded with chocolate chips, and there were loads of great questions asked throughout the night. One really stuck with me.
Some Jews were left behind. They didn’t get out with the rest of us. Others escaped in the Exodus, but griped in the desert about the cucumbers and meat they left behind in Egypt.
“How?” she asked. “I mean, did they enjoy slavery?”
My thoughts jumped to the day before, when one of the chevre told me about the volunteer work the group had done that morning at a local women’s shelter. ‘Slavery’ takes many forms, and these women have made journeys out of their own personal ‘Egypts.’ Why do only some of them make it out? Why do so many stay?
I think it’s because slavery feels safe. Never mind that the taskmasters were cruel, that Pharoah was murdering their children, that life seemed hopeless and meaningless. They knew where their next meager meal would come from. They had a roof and a blanket. They were tortured, but safe.
“Why did you have children with him if it was so bad?” some well-meaning friends may ask. We read that the Hebrew women in Egypt brought forth children despite the hardships, knowing that their precious little ones faced a difficult future, but that there could be no future at all if they weren’t willing to put their effort into creating a next generation. Are the women in the shelter any different?
But leaving Egypt may mean giving up that roof and blanket, food for you and your young. The faith required to believe there will be manna in the desert can take some time to muster.
“It could be worse…just look at her case, where he…” is a rationale used to make women feel guilty for not wanting to suffer. Life can always be worse, but it can also be much better.
Freedom is scary and fraught with self-doubt. Freedom is a heavy responsibility, requiring much sacrifice. It’s hard…but it’s better.
Hopefully we are all using this opportunity of the Passover season to clean our hearts, as much as our homes, of the chametz that ‘sours’ our lives. Hopefully we can all be freed from our personal Egypts and begin a journey toward true inner freedom.
But this time, there is no rush, no overnight Exodus. We are not running for our lives, with a mighty army on our heels. So I ask of you this Passover, if you see that someone is struggling to leave their Egypt…please don’t leave them behind. No one ever, ever enjoys slavery. Offer a hand, have patience, and let’s support each other on the long road home.
Director of Development