At this time of year the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Passover in which we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, when the Jewish people escaped from slavery and became free.
Although some read the text literally, there are many others who read the story metaphorically. The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim” translated literally as “the narrows.”
What does it mean to be in the narrows? And what does it mean to leave the narrows to become free?
There are many types of Mitzrayim; of “the narrows”. Sometimes the narrows are a physical location in which we find ourselves trapped. Sometimes the narrows are about the relationships in our lives and the constraints they put upon us. But sometimes our Mitzrayims are internal- a narrowness of heart and mind that squeezes and confines us. Leaving such narrowness is indeed a struggle of epic proportions- an Exodus that each one of us may at some point need to embark upon.
Every year Jews are commanded to retell the story of the Exodus, to recall the confinement of Mitzrayim and expansiveness of freedom. It is a holiday that every year invites its participants to feel as though they themselves left Mitzrayim.
I would suggest that the invitation is not merely to remember the Exodus, but to embark upon it. Leaving behind the narrowness in your life can be quite difficult. It can feel like a long and arduous journey. But the rewards of the journey are worth it.
Imagine what it would feel like to escape the narrows of your life; to live in a way that is expansive and open. Imagine what it would feel like to live in a way that honors your values and makes you feel truly free.
In each one of us is the potential for such an Exodus. Our Mitrzayims and our freedoms may be different, but each one of us holds the potential for a meaningful Exodus story, one in which we go from the narrows to more open vistas.
I live in New England and this year, in particular, I feel the hope of the season. There is something life affirming about the arrival of spring- of those first buds on the trees and the shoots of crocuses pushing through the earth- stretching their leaves with the assurance of color and sunny days.
As the dirty snow banks melt away, people’s moods lift. Inherent in spring is the contradiction of dependability and change. Even in the depths of our collective seasonal affect disorder, in the dark days of February (and this year the stormy days of March,) we know that spring will come. We know, just as we know that the sun sets and rises, that spring will arrive. We know that if we can hold on long enough, new life will sprout and color will again populate our landscape. That’s the dependable part.
The second thing that spring offers is the promise of change. As the sun warms the earth with its gentle rays, we begin our spring cleaning. We open the windows to air out our homes and clear away the clutter we have somehow managed to collect since last April. With new life, comes the possibility of new routines and behaviors. With the joy of spring comes the belief that anything is possible. Although many people make new years’ resolutions for change, it is perhaps in April and May that one has the greatest chance of following through on those resolutions (although as I have argued here, we should be making commitments instead).
The season puts a spring in our steps and a smile on our faces. This positivity leads to a spiral of positivity wherein our happier outlook creates the potential for happier outcomes.
So this year as you clean out your cupboards and your closets, do a personal inventory as well. Decide which habits and patterns of thinking no longer fit you. Look at your life and identify the things that are clutter. Open the windows of your soul and let fresh air and new life enter.
Let spring be the season in which you welcome change. Every year we can count on its arrival. Every year we can seize on its promise of change. What will you change this year?