When you look at a masterful painting, do you only see the art, or does the art lead you to think about the artist? When you enjoy a beautifully prepared feast, do you focus on the food exclusively, or does the taste and aroma lead you to think about the chef?

When you look at aWhat do you see? sunset, at waves crashing onto the shore, or at a brilliant night sky, what do you see? Some see Mother Nature in all her glory: the predictable, unchanging patterns of the natural order. Seeing the beauty and mystery of the universe inspires one to study the Earth’s secrets, to discover the laws by which it operates, and to harness its awesome strength.

Others see more than a natural world.

The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these.”1 Pondering the magnificent and awesome universe, says Isaiah, will lead us to ask the question: “Who created these?” By our asking who created the universe, the creation itself leads us to know and to experience the Creator.

Egypt, or “Mitzrayim” in Hebrew, was the most advanced society of the ancient world. Their understanding of science was unparalleled, and they were the experts in harnessing the power of nature to their advantage. But they were spiritually constrained. They studied the Universe, they worshiped nature, but they did not ask the most important question: “Who created these?” This is the question that paves the way to the discovery of meaning, morals and ethics, for asking “Who created these?” leads to asking “Why did He create?” and “What does the Creator expect of us?”

The Kabbalists explain that “Mitzrayim” is composed of the words meitzar yam. Meitzar means “constraints,” and the letters of the word yam can be rearranged to create the word mi, which means “who.” In other words, Mitzrayim is a culture that hinders one from asking the question “who?” The Egyptian culture encouraged asking all sorts of questions about the Universe, except for the question that would lead to freedom from the constraints of the material world, the question that would lead toward the liberating connection with the Creator. Egypt prevents one from fulfilling Isaiah's plea to “lift up your eyes on high and see who created these.”

Being in Egypt meansBeing in Egypt means seeing a set of laws that rule supreme looking at nature and seeing a set of laws that rule supreme—trapping man in its grip, enslaving him to his natural habits, temptations and shortcomings. The Torah tells us that we must remember the exodus from Egypt all the days of our life, for each and every day we are called upon to break free of our limitations, of the constraints that hold us back from being the person we want to be and from living the life we are capable of living. We are liberated from Egypt when looking at nature brings us to the recognition of the Creator, who gifts us of His infinity, allowing us to break free of the confines of the natural order and to create change in the world and within ourselves.

Thus, twice a day we cover our eyes and say the most important Jewish prayer: “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G‑d, Hashem is One.” The word “hear,” shema, is an acronym for the words siuh marom einichem, “lift up your eyes on high.” Saying the Shema allows us to look at nature and experience the Creator of the Universe. Lifting our eyes heavenward empowers us to transcend the confines of the limited reality by connecting to His transcendent existence.2