Straits of Possibility
In Hebrew, words often carry deeper, inter-connected meaning ripe for interpretation. The Hebrew word for Egypt, a nation much at issue in this season of our liberation and rebirth, is Mitzrayim. It is closely related to another Hebrew word: mitzrim, or straits, as in constraints or narrow places. Thus, our celebration of Pesach becomes an acknowledgment of our potential to overcome challenges both as a community and as individuals.
Culturally, historically and theologically, we as a Jewish people most fully celebrate our triumph over bondage, and thus express ultimate appreciation to God, by striving to attain the freedom for all who are currently shackled by recent forms of bondage: privation, racism, sexism, and all other pernicious “isms.”
And yet, this Festival of Afflicted Bread also compels us to address our individual bindings: obsessions and addictions; ignorance, apathy and negligence; the failure to realize our God-given opportunities. In many ways, Pesach is a mini-Yom Kippur for the Jewish individual, a mid-year check up of our progress in living out the teshuvah/repentance we vowed six months earlier. And so, we are doubly-commanded, doubly-compelled, and doubly-inspired to liberate all qualities, characteristics and experiences that prevent humanity from achieving that which God intends for us.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner