Passover is our foundational holiday. The very laws of nature are predicated on the premise of our need/capacity for work and for rest. In the Exodus story as well, the definition of our freedom is the freedom from unending labor. We must rest in order to be fully human. We must stop working in order to make room to contemplate our higher capacities. We must free ourselves and be freed from the mentality of Pharaoh - unending, unresaonable, unsustainable demands. Creation and Exodus are tied together. The purpose of creation is to cultivate the freedom from Egypt.
This "stop working in order to create room" is not simply a cessation of labor. It is a resting from thought as well. The literal "train of thought" runs on and on, tiring us, even as we sit in a chair. All the many thoughts about what we should have done or could have done... or our thoughts about what someone else should have done or could have done. We need rest from this mechanical inner conversation in order to create room. All this "would have, could have, should have" is a kind of inner Pharaoh, stomping around our inner living room, insisting, demanding, opining. If we're honest - if we see - much of our inner thought is like this. Noticing that we are like this at times is the beginning of inner freedom.
Rabbi Abraham Issac Kook, in his essay "In Search of the True I" teaches that freedom from this inner Pharaoh is gained by returning to our fuller self, our higher nature. We nourish our higher nature through moments of contemplation and inner quiet. Rabbi Kook qoutes the prophet Job who says "God is the breath in my nostrils (Job 27:3);" an early teaching on breath meditation.
We nourish our higher nature by cultivating curiosity and acceptance, empathy and compassion - for ourselves and others. That is how we care for the stranger within us/among us, because we were slaves too. We know what it's like to be driven by an inner or outer Pharaoh. Every day and every moment, we are somewhere on the journey between the subjugation of Egypt and the moment of connection with The Eternal at Sinai. Part of our journey from being the children of Israel to the congregation of Israel is to be aware of and responsible for our current place on that journey. How close are we to slavish Egypt? How close are we to the illumination of Sinai?
"I" am the Lord Your God - This Higher "I" frees you from Epypt.
Please share your thoughts on this subject if you do read it. I'm curious to see what aspects of this teaching folks find interesting!