Saturday, April 7, 2012


It's Passover. Last night was the first night of eight, and tonight we go over to our friends' house for a seder. I grew up an Anglo-Catholic and had never attended a seder before meeting Ellie, but now I have been to forty or more and counting, most of them at Ellie's parent's home. Each one is different. Since Ellie's father died, I have been known to stand in as the leader of the seder; and once I even wrote a Haggadah for the evening. The Haggadah, of course, is the book that details the order of the event, an age-old, annual celebration of the Exodus, the liberation of the Jews from slavery under the Egyptian Pharaohs. By extension, it is the celebration of the freedom of all people, everywhere, from tyranny and oppression. It is, sadly, as relevant today as it was all those thousands of years ago. The dreadful prevalence of the sale of women and young girls into the sex slavery market is but one particularly shameful example.

There are many forms of slavery, of course, but the most intractable of jailers is the human mind. It is also one of the most readily ignored. We allow ourselves to become the unknowing slaves of our old habits and prejudices, of our obsessive needs as well as our aversions. We become unknowing slaves to our addictions, and to the identities we create in order to present what we imagine to be an acceptable image to the world. We become unknowing slaves to the sophisticated marketing techniques of modern business, and to the propaganda we choose to listen to in the guise of news.

This is perhaps the hardest form of slavery to escape from--even harder than that imposed on us by tyrants, whose yoke we feel more readily, and struggle to free ourselves with greater rage and tenacity. Yet we succumb mildly to the slavery of the mind. Even if we bring ourselves to notice it, we tend to accept it with tolerance because that is "who we are." We persist in our habits because they feel comfortable and familiar, and because we risk losing our anchor in the world if we unmoor ourselves from them. We fear change, even though that is the condition of our lives.

And yet to accept the truth of impermanence and to embrace change is the only means we have to escape from the captivity of the mind, whose prison has offered us for so long the illusion of security. At least here, in the mind, we can feel comfortable with what we think we know. To let go of that illusion, to walk through the prison door into the blinding light of the unknown, to accept freedom with all the risks it brings with it, that is the challenge of a lifetime. And this, to me, is one of the many meanings of Passover, one of the many reasons to celebrate the seder. It offers us the opportunity for the ultimate escape--the escape from ourselves.


Anonymous said...

mozel tov

Chimmy said...

i'm a christian who loves the greater message of passover and pray it is realized the world over!

happy pesach!