This coming weekend, Passover begins. This holiday, which seems to be such a Jewish occasion, actually holds within it a message and a prediction for all of humanity. It is no coincidence that the story of Moses, Pharaoh, and the exodus from Egypt has inspired several epic films; the universal message of liberation from enslavement touches a soft spot in every person: the aspiration for freedom.
To make the most of the story, we need to understand what or who enslaves us, and how we can be freed. The name of the holiday, “Passover,” is no coincidence. It represents passing over from enslavement to freedom. And Pharaoh, the great oppressor, is none other than our ego.
Moses, whose name comes from the Hebrew word moshech [pulling], is the force that pulls us out of Pharaoh’s grip and delivers us, making us masters of our own fates. The story of Egypt is truly universal because the liberation from the ego pertains to each and every person. At some point, each of us will feel that the ego has become a ruthless master and will want to run away from it. This is when one exits Egypt by following Moses, and becomes a free person—liberated from one’s own tormenting Pharaoh—the ego.
These days, the days of Covid-19, are tough times for everyone.
Although Covid has not made us feel enslaved, it certainly made us feel restrained. The mounting pressure on people’s psyche, the economic toll of lockdowns, the growing pain and grief are spoiling the party that we’d had until the arrival of the virus. Until its arrival, we were in love with Pharaoh. He, namely our ego, has given us civilization, progress, prosperity, and everything that we have achieved.
But Pharaoh does not remain the same. Like everything else in life, he changes over time. Our ego is growing and evolving, and in the process it becomes increasingly demanding. What was great yesterday becomes completely insufficient today. Gradually, we begin to feel increasingly dissatisfied. Shouldn’t it have been the opposite, that the more we have, the happier we are? Not if we consider who demands that we satisfy his wishes: our ego.
Our ego is insatiable; the more you feed it, the hungrier it grows. And the hungrier it grows, the more demanding it becomes. In the end, you find yourself locked in pursuit of satisfactions that seem rewarding only until you have them. Once you have what you want, your boss whispers “Bring me more! Bring me better!” Then, when you say “Enough!” you realize that you cannot get away; you are enslaved to your ego and the more you resist, the more it afflicts you. This is when you realize that Pharaoh was exploiting you, that he was good to you only as long as you served him. But the minute you want to quit, you uncover his true face. This is when the enslavement in Egypt begins.
We are not there yet, but we are nearing it. We are already feeling bad, but we have yet to realize that Pharaoh, our ego, is the cause of our bad feeling, and not a virus or any other disaster. When we grasp this, it will mark the beginning of our exodus from Egypt, from enslavement to the ego.
For now, it is enough to examine everything that we don’t like about our lives and ask ourselves who is really suffering from them. If we start creating some space between ourselves and our egos, we might be able to see who is demanding the work, who is reaping the reward, and who is paying the price.
[Sara Weinstein, 17, right, helps pick up some of the 70 Passover meals the Baron Hirsch Congregation is delivering to seniors and those in need in honor of the holiday on Thursday. Reuters]