We were slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt, but the Lord led us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 6:21)
One of the keys to a more peaceful life is learning when to allow oneself to be led and when to take life by the horns. Both of these inner-actions are necessary at different times. As we reach a point within ourselves where we are able to live in the middle, between the tensions of when to relinquish control and when to assume it, we will have reached a place where real spiritual growth becomes possible. We discover a kind of rhythm or dance of life in which we sometimes follow and sometimes seem to lead. In both actions we are active participants in life.
In my daily work coordinating a hospital spiritual care department, my job is to provide for the spiritual needs of all faith groups. The program serves patients, their families, and also the hospital staff. The hospital not having an official religious affiliation has been a source of blessing for me. Although I am Catholic, I have become knowledgeable about many spiritual traditions in order to serve each of them well. One of the most powerful insights I have learned involves the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover, also referred to in the Jewish tradition as “The Festival of Our Freedom.”
Through my association with Jewish friends and colleagues and in researching the significance of Passover, I have found great spiritual meaning in seeing Passover as a distinct action and gift of God in human history before the establishment of Christianity. Researching Passover has enabled me to see it from a different perspective, thus gaining a new appreciation for it.
The Jewish Festival of Passover is a joyful time, primarily retelling and remembering the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from both the physical and spiritual slavery of the Egyptians some 5000 years ago. The story is symbolically re-told in the Seder meal that is observed with the whole family during the festival that lasts several days.
The great Jewish phrase that captures the spiritual meaning is, “We were slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt, but the Lord led us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 6:21). I have learned that the message of Passover, “God leads his people,” is not only about what happened in Egypt 5000 years ago.
The message for us is that “Egypt” is in our own hearts. Each one of us has our own personal Egypt. The inner slavery of fear, depression, anxiety, addiction, jealousy, lust, hate, anger, prejudice, violence, abuse, and countless other chains can hold us in bondage. We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be. The same God who led his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm wants to lead us out of the Egypt of our own closed hearts today so that we may live in the freedom of the children of God. With God’s help we can open up and allow ourselves to be led.
As a Christian, I have found it helpful and interesting to observe that The Last Supper actually occurred on the first day of the Passover Festival. I feel a special connectedness with my Jewish brothers and sisters as I wonder if at the Last Supper, Jesus was observing the Passover meal, sharing the Seder Meal with his friends for the final time.
Opening my heart to the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover has been powerful and insightful. It has been and remains a tremendous source of comfort and healing in my own spiritual journey.
This article is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” written by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.