April 2017 archive

Our Own Egypt

Having recently revisited our own Exodus from enslavement, the Mi Chamocha and its difficulties are fresh and our memories. Pesach is a time where we celebrate our freedoms, but we also remember that our freedom did not come without grave costs, and we are commanded to remember that when people are suffering – especially when it is at the expense of our own victories – we cannot celebrate fully.

As we come to the Mi Chamocha, we recognize a great deal of internal struggle. The V’Ahavta, which precedes it, commands that we love the Oneness of everything and be present with and within the Commandments, but it can be difficult to do so when knowing that gaining our freedoms had dire consequences for others.

It seems as though we are surrounded by situations that have no clear right or wrong answer, no clear pathway toward good or bad, and very murky distinctions between people who work to uphold the rights of others and those who work to tear them down. Perhaps we are each experiencing our own “Egypt” – globally, nationally, in our personal spheres of living and loving, and within ourselves. What places are troubling you? What places or environments or situations are enslaving you? How will you deal with them? And what will you do with those who do not agree with you?

Paulo Freire, in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, describes again and again how groups of people who are oppressed for long periods of time finally build up the momentum to revolt, and when they do so, once they have the power, they don’t know what to do with it because there was no real plan for actually winning. People organized around the revolution, but they did not organize a structure for establishing authority figures and regulations and laws. There was just the simple goal of winning. But winning isn’t enough. We must be part of our own learning, contribute to our own escape, and take responsibility for our own circumstances … however difficult that may be. We must think not only of how to exit a situation, but how to deal with that situation once power and control have been transferred. Once we feel empowered, what steps will be taken? What strategies will we use? And how will we ensure that we do not become those who (or that which) oppressed us? It is important to reflect upon our own spaces and situations. What is your “Egypt?” How will you unshackle yourself from that “Egypt?” And what will you do once you are free? Will you treat your enemies as they treated you? Will you celebrate their downfall? Or will you promote something different? And if you’re going to try something different, what is that going to be and how will it work out? What are the possible consequences – good and bad?

These are all things we must consider when we are preparing to start our own Revolution, be it global, national, personal, or internal. Hineini? Where are you? Ayeka. I am here.