On the seventh night of Passover, the night we celebrate crossing the Sea of Reeds, friends joined me at our dining-room table. We were shooting for learning through the night, pushing an idea in the hope of splitting the sea. We wanted to leave where we were and cross over to a new way of being. Our point of departure was the concept that, whereas on the first night of Passover we focus on getting out of Egypt, on the seventh, we zero in on getting Egypt out of us. It's one thing to leave the place of the wound behind, but how to shed ourselves of its demons?

She speaks through me, takes over my senses, and quickens my pulseI know the dilemma well. As a young teen, I hung back in the shadows at parties. It seemed that I alone was never asked to dance. I was too tall, too curly, too dark, too smart ... too something; it doesn't matter what, I didn't make the grade. And even though, in retrospect, it was a blessing, nonetheless, the girl I was at that moment and in that place—the girl in the shadows with the gray-red heart—shows up now, in full daylight and in the most unwelcome of ways. I might trip on the sidewalk, get a bad haircut, clash with a friend or simply bump up against someone else's ego and—presto, there she is! She speaks through me, takes over my senses, heats my skin and quickens my pulse. Sometimes, I'm not aware of her presence, but even when I am, she's impervious to my mind. I've long since left those parties behind, but that teenage girl clings to me like a membrane to muscle. She's under my skin.

Now it was the seventh night of Passover. I was with soul sisters, and I wanted to make at least some headway through the Sea of Reeds, to learn how to let go and divest myself of the flaws and fears and fictitious beliefs that take hold of me. Thus we began our nighttime crossing, asking of ourselves and each other: How can we leave our memories in the shadows and proceed to freedom?

Looking for clues, we traced the journey of our ancestors. We'd been out of Egypt for all of two days, when, with the intention of confusing Pharaoh, G‑d had us turn around. For the entire third day, we kept heading back to Egypt. The cattle dusted with desert sand; the old folk who had been born into slavery, who'd lost their childhood to slavery and who had said goodbye to a lifetime of imprisonment just days ago; the moms wiping noses and tears, and thoughts of worry from their heart; the dads guiding the donkeys under their loads; and the teens—the tall and short and dark and pale and lanky and chubby ones—all moving back to the slave labor camps and bloodbaths, back to their wounds. Seemingly lost in the wilderness, we stopped and camped in the place called Pi Hacheirot.

As with all the other narratives in the Bible, this is our story, too, and as such, it charters the territory and route we must follow towards Redemption. My friends and I spoke of leaving and returning to limitations, of the flux and the struggle. Then Rashi said something I knew was a key. In identifying which place the Torah is referring to when it tells us where we encamped, he says, "Pi Hacheirot is Pitom." They're one and the same. In that place, there were two high cliffs and the valley between them was called the Mouth of Freedom [Pi Hacheirot] because we marched through them, along that valley, on our way to freedom. The opening had once been closed to us, a place from which no slave could escape, hence its earlier name – Pitom, "An Enclosed Mouth." Yet despite its having been shut, that's precisely where we became free. Rashi was telling me that my freedom lies in the very place that once closed me in.

Freedom lies in the very place that once closed me inI remembered a story about Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl. It is a disturbing story. And a liberating one, too. Once, as he sat learning, an elderly and sage looking man entered the study hall. He offered to learn with Rabbi Nachum who replied that he would first have to consult with his master, the Maggid of Mezritch. When he heard these words, the scholar left. Later, the Maggid called Rabbi Nochum aside.

"Did anything unusual happen during the day?" he asked.

Rabbi Nachum told him of his encounter and the Maggid breathed a sigh of relief.

"He was the Satan in disguise. If you had learned with him, he could have destroyed all you have worked for. Tell me, how did you know to refuse his offer?"

"I was a young child when my mother passed away," said Rabbi Nachum. "My father married a woman who fed and cared for her own children first, making no bones about her prejudice. One day, I was particularly hungry. I drank some milk that had been set aside on a shelf. When my stepmother found me, she scolded me harshly. I learned then never to take anything without permission."

Clearly, Rabbi Nachum's childhood had its "closed mouth," its narrow strait. But somehow, this righteous man knew how to take it, to read, to relate to his plight in such a way that his valley became an opening.

Around the table, we had been plotting the course for hours. As dawn was dawning, I sensed that my shadow self just might offer me, and had already afforded me, growth and insight. I'm not Rabbi Nachum and often I can barely save myself from my own ego, let alone from the Satan in disguise as a sage! But I can remind myself that Pitom is Pi Hacheirot, the closed mouth is the mouth of freedom. Even if I don't get it empirically, if it doesn't enter a knowing-heart, I can remember that the very place of my wounds is an opening. I can remind myself that G‑d has given me both what I have and what I don't have. And what He's withheld—the knocks, the gaps—are all integral to my mission in this lifetime.

A couple of years back, one of my twins was still getting therapy six times a week. Thank G‑d, he's doing great now. He outruns his friends and his twin, and given all the training, kids on the block clamor for him to be on their team. But for a while there, I was worried about my babe born at the end of the seventh month. His body seemed fragile, especially in contrast to that of his husky brother. Not wanting to give the fear too much oomph, I mentioned it gingerly to a teacher. He told me, "Just as one needs a body that is strong, his brother needs one that is weaker. Each has been given precisely what he needs to complete his mission in life." The enclosures are openings to freedom.

I'm carrying these thoughts I cupped from the waters of the Sea of Reeds with me into the month of healing. The month of Iyar is upon us. Spelled Alef-Yud-Yud-Reish, Iyar is an acronym for "I G‑d am your Healer." I want to jump on the bandwagon. In prayer of late, I'm asking G‑d to help me pass through my personal Valley of Freedom, for the blessing to be able to read a situation accurately, and that He stand by my side for forty-nine days as I take the forty-nine steps from Egypt to Sinai where we became infinitely free through the yoke of Torah. May he be at your side, too, so that we all, each of us, stand liberated and brimming with joy at the foot of Mount Sinai, with the revelation of the Torah of Moshiach.