Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exodus from Mizrayim

Tomorrow evening, at sundown, is the first night of Passover, my favorite holiday. Passover, as most everyone knows, commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. As the story goes in the bible, the Hebrews escaped enslavement in Egypt under Pharaoh, passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and proceeded to wander for 40 years in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Interestingly, no archaeological evidence has ever been found to confirm this story. In fact, there is no hard empirical evidence whatsoever to support the notion that the Exodus is anything more than a terrific narrative, rich with life lessons, a theological fiction. Honestly, what difference does it make if the story is true or fabricated? These days I subscribe to the belief that the lines between fiction and nonfiction blur and in the end all that matters it the story itself; how much of it is true and how much imagined is of little consequence.

One of my favorite topics of study prompted by the Exodus story is the notion of being trapped in Mizrayim, which is the Hebrew word for Egypt, the word used to refer to Egypt in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. But the Hebrew word mizrayim has other meanings, other connotations, as all Hebrew words do (gotta love this). Mizrayim also means a narrow or constricted place. So Passover is a good time to reflect on what constricts us, what prevents us from fulfilling our potential, from accomplishing things we wish to accomplish, from doing or going or being what we hoped for. What maes our lives narrow? An example of escaping from mizrayim in my own life is the story about how I published The Call to Shakabaz. After years and years of sending that manuscript (and others) off to publishers and agents and receiving nothing but rejection slips, I finally asked myself what was preventing me from publishing a book. I was in a narrow place. I was waiting for affirmation and discovery from the “publishing biz.” I decided to self-publish Shakabaz. Sometimes I think of that choice in this way:  I was a bird that kept banging its head repeatedly against a closed door until I finally flew back away from the door to get some perspective and noticed that next to the closed door a window stood wide open. So I flew through the window instead. Publishing Shakabaz brought me such satisfaction and taught me so much of value about the publishing business that stood me in good stead when a publisher later did choose to publish Memories from Cherry Harvest. I was living in Mizrayim and I found my passage out.

In this Passover season, I resolve to reflect on what is constricting me these days, what is preventing me from accomplishing the things I yet want to accomplish. I resolve to reflect on my current mizrayim and to consider what I can do to step through the narrow places in my life so that I may pass through the Red Sea and move forward in my journey. Truly, does it matter if the Exodus story is real or fabricated when it brings this kind of insight, prompts these important questions, and offers this kind of meaningful nourishment for the spirit?

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