A Personal Exodus, Overcoming Our Spiritual Limitations

adapted from an essay by Rabbi H. Pekkar

In Hebrew, the word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means “limitations.” “Going out of Egypt” does not only refer to the exodus of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. It also means that each person, Jew or Gentile, can overcome those things in his life which he sees as limitations on his ability to properly serve God according to His Will, i.e., according to the Torah-true faith, which in essence is higher than intellect.

Self-imposed limitations are caused by the limited or incorrect perspectives in a person’s own intellect and emotions. One should strive to go out from the unfounded limitations he has submitted himself to. A first step in this process is to realize that if he tries properly he WILL be able to see Divine Providence in his life. This will strengthen his faith that creation really is altogether subject to God’s Will, so no outside influence really has the power to stand in the way of a Gentile’s personal observance of the Noahide Code.

One can obtain the strength for this by “going out of Egypt” (his own self-imposed limitations), by taking a lesson from the symbolism of matzah (unleavened bread, which is baked before the dough has time to rise), maror (bitter herbs), and wine.

Matzah represents humility, and maror represents bitterness. When a person thinks about God and he reminds himself of God’s miracles, he should visualize them in his mind’s eye (for example, God’s splitting of the sea for the Jewish people during their exodus from slavery in Egypt/Mitzrayim). This will bring him to humility and awe before God, because he sees that everything in the world and within himself is from God’s power, and not from his own or any other power. This leads one to realize the bitterness of one’s own spiritual errors, and the bitterness of the continuing concealment of the Shechinah (God’s Divine Presence) in the spiritual darkness that dominates the world until Moshiach comes.

When a person internalizes these two realizations (the humility and the bitterness), then he becomes able to wholeheartedly and joyfully receive God’s word from the Torah, without personal agendas or prejudice. He then realizes that following God’s Will (i.e. the Noahide Code for all Gentiles) is the very best thing that a Gentile can do for himself and his family, and he makes a commitment to do this with a joyful heart. This internal joy is connected with the concept of wine, the fruit of the vine, which is a symbol of rejoicing. The fact that a libation of wine accompanied the offerings to God in the Holy Temple reminds us that our experience of joy can be redirected away from the false joy of indulging in mundane pleasures, to true joy in serving God.

May the humility, awe, and joy experienced in directing our personal lives to God bring us to eagerly anticipate the imminent arrival of Elijah the prophet, whose mission is to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers” [Malachi 3:23-24], and to prepare the world for the true and complete redemption through Moshiach (the Messiah, descended from the royal house of King David). Therefore Rambam summarizes the essence of Elijah’s mission as “he will come solely to establish peace” (Laws of Kings, chapter 12).

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