As we prepare for the holiday of Shavuot, the giving of the Torah, I once again read the Ten Commandments and reflect on how they relate to my life. When understanding their inner meaning, they all are a challenge in a different way. But one, in particular, is definitely the hardest for me.

My difficulty reminds me of experiment involving monkeys and traps. It goes like this - A barrel is set out in the jungle with a big bunch of bananas in it. There is a small hole in the top, just big enough for the monkey to stick his hand through. But when the monkey wraps his hand around the bunch of bananas, he can't bring his hand back out through the hole, so he sits there and sits there and sits there, apparently unable to let go even as his captors approach.

If anyone would save me, it would have to be me I can't personally vouch for the truth of this, but I learned the concept at a self-help seminar years ago, and often, when I have resistance to what I know to be healthy thinking or appropriate behavior, I try to imagine letting go of those bananas, those thoughts or behaviors that really aren't working for me, that are not my friends. Demons. Bad karma. Issues.

Enough metaphors – what's the challenge? Oddly enough, one I had never contemplated before – the First Commandment - that states: "I am G‑d, your G‑d, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt ...." I never thought that much about it because unlike the other commandments, it doesn't seem to ask anything of me. It doesn't command me to do that which is correct or refrain from what is incorrect.

The leaving of Egypt occupies a lot of thought during Passover, obviously, but otherwise, how is this supposed to interface with my daily life? And why do I feel like it could pose any challenge to me at all, let alone that I intuitively feel that it is confronting me the most at this time? It must have has something to do with my difficulty of letting go of bananas.

The First Commandment is really a statement of spiritual reality. It is said that we did nothing to merit the exodus; nor did we make it happen – we were simply taken out, and we are commanded to feel as if "we" personally had been taken out, by "our" G‑d. To be honest, I totally believe it happened this way in the past, but I just don't have that much trust to relate that to the present, or to the future.

When I was a kid, I needed to be taken out of some pretty nasty stuff. No one stepped up to the plate. No one wanted to "see" what was going on, I guess, because that meant they might have to do something about it. The person I had been relying on to save me walked out of my life, and then was gone for good. It was pointless to cry, ask for relief, or expect any help. If anyone would save me, it would have to be me. This is one of those bananas that has prevented me from developing trust.

On an outer level, it explains my quirky passion, as an adult, for learning self-defense. It only dawns on me now that unless G‑d were in fact saving me, back then, I would have been far more damaged, more self destructive, and my life could never resemble what it does today. While I am not completely mired in Egypt, I know I haven't truly left it either, like the saying, "You can take the girl out of the country…" So how does one leave Egypt and also be rid of the effects of slavery, or to be more precise, how does one allow G‑d to rescue? How do we make a space in ourselves for the truth and spiritual reality of the First Commandment?

While I am not completely mired in Egypt, I know I haven't truly left it eitherAccording to our tradition, four-fifths of the Jews died during the plague of darkness, and the reason given is that when offered freedom, they wanted to remain in Egypt. Being enslaved has to be a very dehumanizing and deadening experience. In order to survive it, one has to pull back on that which makes us conscious, on that which makes us fully human. It is a form of de-evolution, self-suicide, really.

Those Jews who preferred to remain slaves in Egypt were dead already. They had killed off that which made them fully human, and were thus incapable of living with the degree of spirituality necessary to make it to Sinai. Their physical death was only a formality. It was a self-selecting process. I like to think I would have made that cut. I like to think that I would have been in the front line of the Jews that left. As a child, I used to get locked up for hours at a time, and even though I would never lower myself to ask to be let out, I never stayed a second longer than I had to.

Even though G‑d showed up in an incontrovertible and openly miraculous way, however, four-fifths of the Jews didn't bolt when the door was finally opened, preferring to hold onto their bananas as well. It's like this - you can either hold onto dysfunctional ideas and behaviors OR you can be happy – you cannot have it both ways. I have more than enough reasons in my personal life to trust G‑d. He proves Himself to me over and over. And every time He does, I am in awe – for maybe a day - and then I go back to the old saw of "yea, but something bad always happens". It's not clear I would have had the spiritual strength to leave Egypt

The "second cut" occurred when we were commanded to smear our doorways with the blood of the sacrificial lamb – and here's a little known fact – combined with blood from the circumcision that had also just been ordered - so that the Angel of Death would pass over our houses. You have to be willing to follow some rather bizarre orders to comply with that one. I assume some people just said, "no" and didn't survive the tenth plague. The end game was not a three-day barbeque over the border, but the accepting of Torah, accepting "our" G‑d who gets to tell us what to do – forever. Again, that's a self-selecting population.

I was in my mid-thirties when I heard my first Torah class. Within a few months, I decided to become observant. So I like to think I would have been one of those Jews with a roller on a broom handle, swabbing away at my doorposts with that comingled blood, not wanting to miss a spot. Because my relationship with G‑d is basically fear-based, I can take direction pretty well. You want me to keep kosher? Fine. You want me to keep Shabbat? Fine. Having a form of OCD actually makes me a natural at this. But how enduring is that? What am I passing onto my children? Time will tell if they will find value in an observant life.

If I am to truly leave Egypt behind, it won't be as a result of getting that black belt, becoming proficient with a .45 semi, engaging in more therapy, reading more self-help books, meditating on Hebrew letters or Your divine attributes, eating right, increasing my daily fiber intake, or even praying. There is no solution other than to cry out to You, I suppose.

You can either hold onto dysfunctional ideas and behaviors OR you can be happy – you cannot have it both waysSo here it is, G‑d, "my" G‑d - my cry. I can't seem to drop the rest of these bananas. You have taken me so far already. Please take me the rest of the way. What is the point of leaving Egypt if I am still enslaved? Help me "get over it" already. Silence the voices in my head that keep me based in shame. Help me stop being so afraid of the future that I often weep when I am alone, and sometimes when I am driving the car, which is a little scary. Please help me be fully human, conscious, present, able to really feel and connect, to have a relationship with You that I can trust.

Aren't You commanding me to believe this? It's written in Your Torah and I expect You to keep Your word. Take me out of this land today and every day after that. Let me stop looking over my shoulder. Let me feel something, anything, when I pray. Please, may it be Your will, to let me create the space to let You rescue me.