The Me'or Eynayim understood that at the heart of the liberation from Mitzrayim was the liberation of da'at, or awareness.
Awareness itself was in exile.
Awareness moved within and among us only in a constricted state, as a constricted flow or sea (Meytzar Yam). In Egypt, we were only dimly aware of the divine in all moments, the oneness of creation, its nearly unfathomable interconnectivity.
Once liberated from Mitzrayim, our awareness broadened into its liberated potential, rising up and expanding. Only then we were able to serve God fully.
What might a liberated, broadened awareness actually be able to hold, to grow intimate with (as the meaning of da'at suggests), to meet without ducking (in the wonderfully concrete imagery of our teacher, Sylvia Boorstein)? It seems to me that a truly expansive awareness would be so stable and so flexible that it would be able to be awake, present and near to all of human experience, the deeply joyful as well as the truly and terribly painful. It is this strength and fullness of awareness that we seek to liberate, and that the festival of Passover reminds us to continue to practice toward attaining, moment by moment.
And it is here where the meaning of the final instruction after the Haggadah's elaborate telling of our history of enslavement and liberation takes on its deepest meaning for me: "In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as if we ourselves had left Egypt."
The radical empathy and identification that is called for as we read ourselves into the JEWISH STORY OF THE PAST is the very radical empathy and identification that is called for as we read ourselves into the STORY OF ALL PEOPLE NOW.
To know God, to experience awareness that is liberated is to discover that the fabric of creation is woven as a unified whole, or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "...that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny."
In this way, the dedication we make toward strengthening and increasing awareness through spiritual practice enables us to see the truth of interconnection and increase our capacity to be present not only to what is joyous but also to the ongoing human experiences of suffering, cruelty, violence, oppression and injustice that are taking place right here, right now (in our own generation), and to act day by day, moment by moment with as much clarity, compassion, wisdom and dedication as we can cultivate.
In the face of what is overwhelming, we resist becoming overwhelmed. Or as Pirkei Avot teaches, we are not obligated to finish the task; neither are we free to desist from it. Pesah gives us a glimpse of the great day, that imagined final redemption toward which all our avodah is devoted.
With love and gratitude for our communities of practice, and with wishes for a Chag Sameach,