In addition to having to shepherd three million men, women and children out from enemy territory, G‑d gave Moses a very strange commandment: to create a calendar. And not just any calendar, but a strange and unique calendar that is based on both the lunar months and the solar year. Early civilizations were What’s easier than looking up in the sky?based on a lunar calendar. After all, when marking the passing of time, what’s easier than looking up in the sky? With the advent of agriculture, however, lunar-based calendars were inadequate for informing farmers when to plant their crops, and so the solar calendar, which is seasonal, became dominant.

These two systems (lunar and solar) are not in sync, however, and it requires complicated adjustments to reconcile the two over a perpetual 19-year cycle. As interesting an endeavor this may have been, what was so significant about this calendar that it had to be commanded at such a precarious moment?

The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzraim, from the word meitzar, which means “narrow” and “constricted.” In leaving Egypt, the Jewish people were going from a place of narrowness to expansion, from a bounded country to an endless open desert, from slavery to freedom. And that entails a major shift in thinking, which is necessary to cultivate both individual and relationship potential.

Jewish mysticism teaches us that the differences between the sun and the moon are not just physical, but spiritual. This polarity is not merely about being a man or a woman; rather, these energies and qualities are present in everyone.

The characteristics of masculine energy are “top-down” and proactive. The predominant energy is to decisively and quickly impose external solutions. When my husband was admitted to a hospital emergency room with a gastric bleed, for example, he needed masculine-energy medical intervention to save his life. Had the doctor not immediately located the site of the bleed, started transfusions and sent my husband off for surgery, my husband would have died on the spot.

The characteristics of feminine energy, on the other hand, are “bottom-up” and receptive. When feminine energy interacts with the world, it sees potential; by cultivating, building and revealing innate qualities, it engenders transformation. And so, after the medical crisis and other complications had passed, my husband was totally debilitated, and it was almost a year before he regained his former vigor and health. During that time he benefited from feminine-energy medical support, utilizing a holistic approach to restoring his body from the inside out, bringing his body into balance and letting the Natural Healer take over.

Both masculine and feminine energies are equally dynamic and vital, and we need access to both ways of being. To be a free and fully functioning person, however, we need to know when to be what. Not only do we get into trouble when we employ the wrong energy for the task, our relationships suffer when we are out of balance.

For In its unbridled extreme, masculine energy is tyrannicalexample, in its unbridled extreme, masculine energy is tyrannical. Pharaoh exemplifies the unhealthy aspects of masculine energy in that he saw reality as an either/or, black-or-white proposition. He reduced reality to one dimension: “my way or the highway.” That kind of thinking will defend distorted and warped viewpoints to the death. No wonder it’s a relationship killer.

Similarly, feminine energy in its unhealthy extreme creates submissiveness to the extent where such a person cannot act or think on his or her own, and thus doesn’t even have a point of view. It’s not slavery per se, but the willingness to remain a slave out of choice is to reject the idea of self-efficacy. As we know from biblical commentary, most of the Jews wanted to stay in Egypt. And disconnection from one’s identity and personal power is anathema to a vibrant bond, in our relationships both with each other and with G‑d.

Thus, this is not a call for androgyny, unisex blandness, or the homogenizing of identity and dissolving differences. Rather, true freedom comes from the ability to bring the cosmic forces of masculine solar and feminine lunar energy into balance and harmony on an individual level, and ultimately on a global one. Being tasked with being a light unto the nations calls for a balancing act that awakens us to the full power of our being, realizes the richness of relationship potential, and creates the joining of heaven and earth.