"These are the journeys of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt"—Numbers 33:1.

This week's reading enumerates the forty-two stages during the nation of Israel's journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. It begins, "These are the journeys of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt."

The words "these are the journeys" seem odd. Technically speaking, there was only one journey out of Egypt: the very first jaunt across Egypt's border and into the wilderness. After that, the subsequent forty-one trips were all travels from one place in the desert to another—not out of Egypt.

Egypt represents the condition of the ultimate stifling of our souls' powersIt will be helpful to understand that the Biblical word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, literally means "constraints" and "limitations." Egypt represents the condition of the ultimate stifling of our souls' powers. Going out of Egypt thus indicates not only a geographical move, but the liberation from spiritual constraints and limitations. In Egypt the soul was inhibited from expressing itself; but in the "good and wide land" that G‑d promised to the Children of Israel, there would be boundless room for spiritual growth.

Relatively speaking, as soon as the Israelites entered the desert, they became free of the spiritual constraints of Egypt. Obviously, they had not yet come to the actual Promised Land—the place for the ultimate fulfillment of their spiritual potential. Yet, compared to where they had just been, they were already in a "good and wide land."

Freedom and bondage are relative concepts. Today's "good and wide land" can become tomorrow's place of "constraints and limitations"—as well it should if we are in a constant state of growth. The journey across the Egyptian border and into the desert was a crucial first phase in a process of spiritual growth; but it was not to be the last. Even in freedom one cannot remain very long at one level before it, too, becomes a new kind of limitation. As such, the verse describes every single one of the forty-two journeys as being a relative exodus from Egypt.

During our recovery, chemical sobriety may have been the beginning of our Exodus. But "getting dry" is not the end of our journey to freedom. When we first broke the cycle of active addiction, it may have felt marvelously liberating. But the initial first feelings of relief do not last long. As long as we are growing, we will always come to fill the spiritual capacity of our current station, and what once seemed like plenty of room begins to feel tight. Then we sense the need to move on again.

Our sobriety date may be the day on which we crossed the border out of Egypt, but everyday in recovery is another exodus from present limitations and into higher and higher levels of freedom.