"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel by which they went out of the land of Egypt" (Numbers 33:1).

Why the plural expression "journeys"? It took 42 journeys for the Israelites to reach the Holy Land, but 41 of those stages were not going "out of the land of Egypt." Leaving Egypt took only one journey, from the Egyptian city of Rameses to the place called Sukos, outside of Egypt's borders.

The Hebrew word Mitzrayim, "Egypt" is derived from the Hebrew word meitzar, meaning "straits" or "limitations." The exodus from Egypt was not only a physical liberation from outside forces of enslavement, imprisonment and "limitation," but also a spiritual liberation of the Jews from the idolatrous depravity of Egyptian culture as well as from their own "straits"--their bad habits and inclinations. This inner liberation took many progressive stages, many "journeys," and each journey was an exodus from the "Egypt"--the limitation—of the previous stage.

For today's accomplishments in self-liberation from evil are tomorrow's "Egypt." Yesterday the person freed himself, to a certain degree, from his former unwholesome traits; he left Egypt. But today he cannot be satisfied with yesterday's standards of accomplishment. Not only is yesterday's liberation from evil insufficient, imperfect—it is, for today, a strait, a limitation, an Egypt from which an exodus must be experienced.

The daily service of man through prayer reflects a similar pattern of successive stages or journeys "out of Egypt."

First, one prepares to pray. One contemplates "I, a man, my G‑dly soul entrapped within a physical body with an animal instinct, (and, to make it worse, sullied by sin) am about to pray to the Al-mighty, Who is infinite and utterly without limitation." This sobering thought is uppermost in his mind when he puts on his prayer shawl and prepares to pray. The very act of setting himself to pray has driven his material concerns out of his mind — he has already left Egypt.

But his sense of self, his "ego," though now refined, is still ever-present in his awareness. However, as he starts to say the actual words of prayer, he begins to leave even this limitation, this "Egypt." Finally, the Amida is reached; all Egypt's are left behind. The worshipper loses all sense of "self"; he stands "as a servant before his master." He declares, "Oh L-rd, open my lips that my mouth should declare your praise"; he has reached a level of complete self-abnegation; he will merely repeat what is placed in his lips.1

The final exodus has been accomplished; the "Holy Land" has been reached!