"Follow your passion."

"Pursue your passion."

"Be true to your passions."

Motivational quotes often focus on the power, the beauty and the strength of passion.

But is passion always pure? Is it always positive and constructive?


In the public arena, we've seen promising figures implode before our very eyes. The detonator? Often it's undisciplined, selfish passion.

Passion can also be a problem in quiet, private lives.

Passion is a double-edged swordA simple example: Passion for one's career is a recipe for success in business. But if passion equals total devotion – to the exclusion and detriment of other priorities – it can be a counter-productive element in one's life.

Passion is a double-edged sword: it can be the energy that catapults us to freedom from sleepwalking through life; or it can be the powerful force, the gravitational pull, which keeps us in a self-destructive cycle.

In chassidic terms, we can call the latter form of passion a conceptual "Egypt."

The Hebrew word for Egypt (Mitzrayim) is closely related to – and contains the exact same letters as – the word for "constraints" (meitzarim). So the Torah's narrative of the Jews' exodus from Egypt isn't just a historical account. The Exodus is also an ongoing personal saga, the story of our individual struggles to rise above the constraints in our lives.

If we want to be free, we need to define what dimensions in life are keeping us down. And the first place we should examine is our passions.

We each need to ask ourselves:

What animates me? What perks me up and gets my blood pumping? What thoughts come to mind when nothing else is taking up my brain space?

In other words: Where do I find passion? And what do I do on auto-pilot?

This self-analysis can be very revealing.

I think we'll find that, instinctively, self-gratification is what grabs our passion. And, unchecked, that's where our passion will inevitably lead.

"Leaving Egypt" means proactively taking the reins of our passions, and guiding them to a productive, meaning-centered place.

So if we want to weaken our personal Pharaoh's grip, if we really want to leave our Egypt, we need to watch our passions.

Document them for ourselves.

And then measure them against what's truly important in life.

Our inner Moses awaits.