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See Your Way Out

See Your Way Out

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The Talmud teaches, "In every generation, one must see himself as if he went out of Egypt."

The word in Hebrew for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which can also be translated as personal limitations. Externally applied limitations, self-imposed limitations, real limitations, imagined limitations, minor limitations, debilitating limitations -- the archetype of all of these being our former existence as peoples enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt several thousand years ago.

Whether we're aware of them our not, each of us has our own set of limitations that at times cause us to make wrong choices, or at times simply prevent us from fulfilling a greater potential. Passover is the time when our actual performance of the many prescribed holiday rituals endows us with a spiritual "freedom" which in turn opens the door of opportunity in all facets of our life to rise above our personal limitations. Passover recalls freedom from Egypt. Doing the Passover rituals brings freedom from the modern day affliction of our own 'Egypt'.

Its seems, however, that before one can "...see himself as if he went out of Egypt (as if he's overcome his limitations)," as the Talmud states, he must first perceive that he is, in fact, in Egypt. If it sounds simple, think: How many of us, before recovery, considered the fact that we were powerless over our addiction, but found some way to rationalize it? How many times were we confronted with the consequences of our actions, but denied we needed help? How many of us insisted we could handle things on our own, that we could control our problem? The rock-bottom induced realization of our utterly limited nature became our first taste of sanity. Recognizing our condition -- admitting our powerlessness -- was a revolutionary adjustment of perspective that, for the first time, created a real ability to free ourselves. Our first true step into recovery became our first real step out of Egypt.

As such, it's apparent that the key to "going out of Egypt" lies in the very recognition of one's nature of being, actually, in Egypt. Translate the Talmudic injunction to read, "In every generation, one must see himself," period. And when he does, it will be "as if he went out of Egypt." In other words, it's as if the Talmud is telling us that to go out of Egypt, today, we must be willing and able to do something that might be excruciatingly painful, perhaps near impossible: Take an honest look at who and what we truly are.

In doing so, we reveal the truth about our slavery: That we are our own taskmasters. Our sense of power and control -- the whip we wield -- is not a tool to success, but in fact, makes life unmanageable. The more powerful we try to be, the more we enslave ourselves. All we need to do to leave Egypt is put down the whip. Surrender. Surrender to the reality of our essential limitations and imperfections. Surrender to the terrifying totality of our lack of control. Surrender to the bare naked truth of who and what we are. Surrender, and recognize that in wielding our whip, it is none other than our self, enslaved before us, we threaten. On Passover, the way to become free people is by perceiving and admitting our condition as slaves.

The Talmud tells us, "In every generation, a man is obligated to see himself." In that moment of rigorous honesty, when the illusion of ourselves as master gives way to our powerless existence as slave, we will be freed, today.

Brocha Taub and her husband, Shais, were the founding co-directors of the Jewish recovery community in Milwaukee, WI. She now lives with her husband and four children in Pittsburgh, PA, where she is taking a break from her passion of early childhood education in order to be a mommy. Every now and then gets some precious time to write.
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Discussion (3)
March 17, 2010
Thanks
Great article. I love how the posts here at Chabad.org help AA to make even more sense to me. It is here that I really learn the importance of 'practicing these principles in all my affairs'.
Joe Abate
Harrisburg, PA
April 1, 2009
big book is in mTorah
I used to go to an AA big book meeting in Oakland Park, FL. where every line is examined for meaning on a big overhead projecter. All I did at each "interpretation" is say It's in the Torah. Bill W. just explained things in a much simpler, more direct manner for the masses of us alcoholics/addicts to understand better. And of course, how many alcoholics/addicts study or keep to Torah. When I was in jail, finally studying, I felt like I was in the desert. I needed the time, just like our ancesters, to raise myself spiritually. And yes, I felt Like I WAS COMING OUT OF MY OWN EGYPT. Unfortunately, just like our ancesters, I too kept testing Hashem's patience.Excellent article. I relate only too well. Now what i've learned over many years is finally sticking. B'H'
Norman S.
Kissimme, Fl.
March 30, 2009
out of Egypt
thanks for a great article. I have recently been struggling wtih the pain of "seeing myself". It is encouraging to be reminded that such seeing is actually my ticket out of Mitzrayim with G-d's help. Takes some of the sting out of viewing my own character defects. Have a liberating Passover.
Anonymous
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