Of Exiles and Redemptions
I am writing to you now in a state of fear that I have not felt in a very long time. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this much fear take over my body before. I feel it tear through my insides like a bullet, pulsing through every fiber of my being. It is a fear of my actions present, past and future. It is a fear of the ramifications that all I have done will likely have. I have written in the past about the types of fear that a person goes through. There is the type of fear that is eminent and then, there is the type that is outstanding. The outstanding fear is the type that one feels continuously, over long periods of time, perhaps over a lifetime. That is the type of fear I have found myself in since I buckled down for this journey called publication, and it is one that has become stronger since I began to creep closer to the release date of Shattered Illusions. You could say that, in a sense, I have exiled myself to live with a shadow of doubt, an anvil of doom hanging over my head, just waiting to drop and crush me.
With the holiday of Pesach (Passover) quickly approaching, I find myself in an even greater state of fear. Pesach is usually the part of the year where I find myself at a major crossroads, both physically and spiritually. With the cross over from a deep, cruel winter to a hopefully beautiful, blooming Spring, my mind uses this holiday to clean out the junk and refresh. Now is the time to release myself from the prison that I’ve been living in. The problem is, I’m not quite sure where to begin.
When Moshe, leader of the Jewish people, announced to the Jews that he had come to take them out of Egypt, to the free world, to the land of Israel, many scoffed at this notion and turned their backs. Though they were slaves in harsh, life threatening conditions, they much rather the familiarity of their situation to an unknown future, however bright it may have been. Can you imagine? In exile for 210 years, yet, when a solution came around, this nation was ready to sacrifice the opportunity to stay put? And, most of them did. Even when the Jews finally let, 4/5 of the people decided to stay in slavery. How could a person in their right mind choose slavery over freedom? In which normal scenario would someone choose death over life? And then, even once they were out of exile and on their way to redemption, they screwed up so many times along the way that it’s surprising that they actually made it to the other side. How is this possible? People of sound mind and clear hearts, making decisions that place themselves constantly in a prison like state. Ironically enough, we do it all the time.
So, here I am, in my little corner of the world, preparing for Pesach, squeezing in the last bit of work on the manuscript before it goes to print (!!!!!), and, thoroughly panicking about life (though quite methodically) to the point that I can’t even remember what I was scared of to begin with. I am in a state of frenzy, which I am sure is normal for every first time author. However, this cannot be defined as normal. This is insanity. This, is exile.
During Pesach, we tell the tale of the Jewish people’s redemption from a physical exile; from the lowly setting of Egypt to the neutral setting of the desert, to their eventual redemption in the land of Israel. But, wasn’t their redemption also spiritual? They were removed from a lowly place and lifted, with each passing day, to a higher level. With every passing day, their tarnished souls were cleansed a bit more until once again, they could be pure beings. Can the same be said for us in today’s day and age? In a world where every moment feels like a fight for survival, a race against the enemy that is time, is it possible that we too find ourselves now, in this time and place, exiled? And if so, where does redemption come from?
My personal battle for redemption began at birth. I have never been one to sit still, and yet, I am constantly surprised when the world does not respond to my quick and unruly pace at the same speed with which I conduct myself. This is where the fear essentially stems from. The fear of the unknown swallows me whole every time, because as hard as I work and as quick as I am, there will always be a curve ball waiting for me somewhere, somehow. I know what my exile is. The question is, what will my redemption be?
To borrow a beautiful example from one my favorite Torah scholars, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman:
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.
Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren’t you good enough just as you are? Don’t you know who you are?”
Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.
But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.
Like the slaves in Egypt, I have come across various solutions at different points in my life, but I have chosen, as they did, to continue on my exiled path. Sadness, anger, fear; all of them become easier over time. They’re easier because they come up with more ease than happiness and clarity do. Sadness is easier because it’s surrender. It is not more pleasant, but it is certainly easier to get by by the skin of my teeth. There is less of a fight. Or, at least, that is how it seems, until one can open their eyes and see what the world could be like if one were to just let go. The path to redemption is a difficult struggle, a long, uphill battle. At times, it is more painful than exile was simply because exile was familiar and a life outside of gated walls and harsh regulations is not.
It’s about opening your eyes and your heart to the beauty of the world around you. Release yourself from your inner exile. Break the chains that surround you and open your heart. Decide that this moment that you’re going to break free of whatever is holding you back and become free. So, on this day, as Pesach draws near, I take upon myself the resolution, to free myself from my personal exile. Perhaps with the breaking of my metaphysical bonds, I will too be able to release myself from the prison like state I have been living in.
May we all merit to break our bondage, physically and mentally. May you find the strength within yourself to overcome your struggles, silence your inner Pharoh, and lead yourself out to the Promise land like Moses.