Jewish Meditation Leaving Egypt
By Rami Aloni
To many people it seems that too much of the emphasis of Passover is on the "how to do" part of the seder rather than the "what it is" aspect. By this I mean that due to the many traditions of Passover, the inner dimension of the Passover experience is lost. We all realize that the "how to do" is important; we must have matzo and wine, we must read the hagadah, etc and with out these important aspects there would be no Passover seder. But due to this emphasis, the "what is" the Passover experience aspect, the inner aspect, is generally left aside and if at all recalled, is rarely done properly.
Indeed, leaving Egypt is an excellent time for Jewish meditation. By Jewish Meditation, I am coming to include the experiential mediations, the actually feeling the Exodu. (For a further discussion on meditation I recommend reading my previous article in the Jewish Magazine ).
With our Jewish meditation we are going to guide you concentration and contemplation on a theme which brings one to a higher spiritual level through experiencing the original Passover and thereby bringing the holiday into a greater inner understanding. To benefit from this you must first isolate yourself from distractions. Choose a quiet room or a quiet outdoor place where no one will interrupt your meditations. Sit upright in a comfortable chair in a comfortable position, and before starting the meditations, relax yourself and close your eyes (after reading this article, of course).
Picture yourself as a slave in Egypt. The days are hot and long; the work is incessant. There appears no relief from the constant work. You remember something about being the descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; you were told that Joseph was a great man in Egypt before the Jews were cast into bondage. Picture this in your imagination and dwell on it as much as possible. Put yourself into the picture of being a slave toiling under unbearable strain, beaten by cruel taskmasters who have no mercy if you do not complete you given task. Your life has been like this for more years than you can remember.
Suddenly things begin to change; Moses has come to Egypt and the word is circulating among the Jews that G-d has charged him with the task of taking the Jews out of Egypt. Imagine yourself sneaking in a conversation to your fellow slaves about this rumor. You can not talk out loud for fear of the taskmasters. If you are caught doing something other than work you are taken out and lashed without mercy. Imagine how you as a slave feel about this rumor. You are working in the hot sun lugging heavy bricks to built a store city for Pharaoh and your mind dwells on this 'news'; do you believe it? What do your friends say? Do they believe it? Concentrate on this for as long as you can and make certain that you see it and feel it in your mind's eye.
Continuing with our Jewish meditation, we are now progressing to where Moses and his brother Aaron have spoken with the king of Egypt, Pharaoh. Pharaoh is angered by their request to permit his Jewish slaves to leave Egypt even for a few days to go into the desert to worship G-d. Pharaoh has decided that the Jews are beginning a rebellion because they are lazy, so he orders the taskmasters to be even more cruel and demanding. Now you have more back breaking work to do. Picture yourself in this situation; how do you feel about Moses' and causing you and your friends to suffer more and to work harder. How do your friends and your family in Egypt feel about it? Consider this situation as long as you can; see and consider all the options for this situation.
Finally Moses begins to bring on the ten plagues: blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locust, darkness and finally the slaying of the first born. Consider how you as a slave would have felt during this awesome time. You are seeing your taskmasters first increasing the work load, but as the plagues continue, you are left free from your work. Picture each of the ten plagues and how you would have reacted to the giant Nile River turning into blood, the fish dying, the Egyptians are desperately searching for water.
Then picture the frogs coming up from the Nile, croaking and jumping into the Egyptians homes, disturbing their tranquility, ruining their foods, hoards of frogs that do not seem to stop coming. How do you as a Jew living in Egypt picture this? What is your reaction when you see that only the Egyptians are disturbed by the frogs but the Jews are not invaded by them? Concentrate on this for as long as you can until you do not just see it, but also feel it.
Go through each of the ten plagues and picture them in you mind's imagination until you can feel the events of Egypt. Don't quit your concentration until you feel in your being that you are there.
Now comes the day of the evening of Passover, Moses has commanded you to take a lamb and get it ready to eat in the evening. The Egyptians believed that the lamb was a deity; before they were angry if someone would have the audacity to eat their god, but Moses is adamant, we are to take a lamb and be prepared to slaughter it and sprinkle the blood on the door posts; if we do not do it, there will be severe repercussions. How do you think the Jewish slave in Egypt in those days felt about this? Would you be frightened from the Egyptians? Would you do this willingly or would you do it only because you were frightened by Moses' power? What is your opinion of those Jews who say that this is going to far, we must respect their god or else we may pay severely if Moses somehow is assassinated by Pharaoh's army?
We were also told to go to our Egyptian neighbor and ask for his best clothing and possessions. How do you feel about this? Before you were afraid of him, but now you must go since Moses had told you to do so. What are your feelings about going into the Egyptian's house? How do you feel when you know that he lies to you telling you claiming that certain things he does not have, when you know exactly where they are? Picture yourself in such a circumstance. Dwell upon it until you can feel an emotion.
Now it is Passover night. You have slaughtered the Pascal lamb and smeared the blood on the door posts and you are sitting in your home eating the lamb with your family. Suddenly, you hear the Egyptians howling and mourning. In every Egyptian house the first born suddenly dies, it is exactly midnight. Pharaoh is searching for Moses, "get out of Egypt!" they yell. Moses gives the order and all the Jews begin to move out from their houses into the streets. You are assembling in the various public squares with all of your valuables. You, together with your friends and families, are excited. All around the Egyptians are crying and screaming from the loss of their first born. How do you feel standing in the cool night air, all assembled with your possessions to move on? Consider all of this until it is not just an image in your mind but a real live event in which you are in the middle. How do you feel about all of this? What are your emotions and concerns? Do you feel insecure in your future? What do your friends tell you?
Finally you are moving out of Egypt. You are marching in long, straight lines that seem to have no end. You are being joined by many other Jews and even some gentiles want to leave with you. Soon you have left the cities and you are marching through the deserts. Suddenly a divine fire appears in front of the marching columns to guide them and give them direction, by day a cloud appears moving overhead in the direction to which you march. Describe to yourself your feelings of elation and insecurities that comes from being released from a horrible bondage.
You have been marching for seven days and now you have heard that Pharaoh has had second thoughts about sending his slaves out. He is chasing after you with his well trained and armed army. You were a slave, you never learnt the art of war. How do you feel about the coming battle? What are your options, if any? Examine your inner feelings of impending doom.
Now you have reached the Red Sea coast. Picture what it must look like. The Egyptians are behind you, closing in for battle and the Red Sea is in front of you. There is no where to hide. How must you feel at a time like this? Around you people are crying, others want to abandon Moses and surrender, others are praying - what do you think it was like at a time like this? What would are your emotions?
Moses has now given the incredible command to go directly into the water. Does this make sense to you? What are the options? You are frightened. Suddenly people begin to enter the water and miraculously the water begins to split and there is dry land upon which to escape. Quickly you begin to run with your family and possessions into the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his army are behind chasing you; they are entering into this dry area where the sea had split. How do you feel about that? You and your family and friends now have made it to the other shore; you turn back and there is Pharaoh and his mighty army close behind. Picture the terror in your heart and the feeling in your stomach seeing his might horses and armed warriors about to swoop down upon you. There are the mean and cruel faces of his army that have come to extract revenge from you and your loved ones. Contemplate on this action scene until you can really feel it in your heart.
Now more miraculous than the splitting of the Red Sea, the sea begins to close upon Pharaoh and his army. You can see there faces close up, first they are full of hostility towards you, they want to kill you and tear you apart. But then the waters begin to close in on them and there faces turn from anger towards you to fear of the collapsing waters. You can see the waters smashing down upon them and hear their screams, but soon the waters return to their places and the sea is again still and Pharaoh and his army are no longer. It is as if nothing happened the waters are calm, but your heart is beating fast. You are tensed from the terrible scene; how do you feel now? Examine how you felt through out the entire splitting of the Red Sea.
After you have taken each of the scenes which I have described and relived them and felt them, you must do it another time until it has become real to you. Once you have done this you are ready for the Seder having lived through the inner dimension of leaving Egypt you can give over the hagadah with real emotion, feeling and understanding as one who lived it. You will see that this year, the Seder will be more than just a mere recitation, you will bring inner feeling to all who hear you, for you have lived through going out of Egypt and are here to tell it.
from the March Passover 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine