Exodus 1:1 – 6:1
The Israelite tribe grows while enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Moses is born, is raised in Pharaoh’s court, and eventually rebels and goes to live as a shepherd in Midian. He receives the call to prophesy, is given God’s name, and returns to Egypt to free his people
AS WE ENTER THE BOOK of Exodus, we live ever more consciously the story of our liberation. This story happens in the timeless present. It stirs the soul to its awakening. Only when we can know and experience the journey from slavery to redemption each day can we truly taste freedom and enjoy the milk and honey that is our inheritance.
Our blessing, the possibility of liberation, is born at the time of greatest travail. Moses is born within us at a moment of despair when we have been beaten down, constricted, forced into the narrowest possible definition of self. That seed of truth and vitality is hidden away and then placed in a teva, an “ark.”
What distinguishes an ark from a boat is the absence of sail or rudder. It is a vehicle that is completely surrendered to fate, to God’s Will. As with Noah’s ark, the hope of a new world, a new kind of consciousness is set afloat. The Ba’al Shem Tov reminds us that the word for ark, teva, also means “word.” The word filled with potential is set adrift on the river of Life.
THIS IS HOW OUR JOURNEY towards consciousness begins. The inner seed of prophecy, filled with our true essence, is surrendered and entrusted into the hands of God, via the primal waters. From there it is embraced by the journey, blessed with experience, education, nourishment, and inspiration, sent to distant lands, initiated into foreign wisdom, and shown the secrets of the wilderness.
We are prepared for prophecy by the landscape of our lives until finally, one day, we stumble upon the same bush that we have passed a hundred times. This time, our eyes open to perceive its fire. In that extraordinary moment of blessing, God calls us by name twice, (1) breaking through the outer self to the inner essence that has been waiting. And that inner essence responds, “Hineni.” (2) Here I am.
We are called into presence by the sudden knowledge that the ground upon which we stand is holy. We are commanded to take off our shoes, for nothing must come between us and this sacred ground. We are called into prophecy as we receive the great name, which is the Ground of Being — Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. (3) Standing on that ground we are sent to do the work of liberation, freeing ourselves from societal expectations of what is deemed “normal.”
The blessing of Shemot sends us to a work that to “normal mind” seems impossible.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
FOR 400 YEARS the people of Israel suffered the oppression of Egypt. Only when the sigh and the cry and the groaning were sent forth could the process of liberation be set in motion. God waits for that cry, and that cry only happens when self-awareness is achieved and the spirit is set free to be heard, remembered, seen, and known. (4)
The spiritual challenge of Shemot is to cultivate the awareness of our own enslavement. Consciousness must precede the cry that awakens the God-force of liberation. To be heard by God is to let the inward sigh become an outward cry. That cry breaks the pattern of enslavement, shakes up the status quo until the memory of covenant is jarred awake. To be remembered by God is to remember the presence of God within. To be seen by God is to lift the veils of self-deception. To be known by God is to move beyond pride and shame, to surrender to the Unknowable.
When the God-force is set in motion by our cry, our lives become the scene of miracle. Moses the Prophet, Aaron the Priest, and Miriam the Artist are awakened to power, and then Pharaoh will be challenged. When that happens, when Pharaoh’s power is threatened, he takes away the straw that we used to make the bricks of our enslavement, and the task before us becomes even harder.
The spiritual challenge of awakening becomes unavoidable. We see how slavery (living from our conditioned responses) has deadened the senses, drained us of vitality, kindled our doubt. Our usual strategies for survival are not working anymore. There is no turning back.
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
BECOMING AWARE OF OUR ENSLAVEMENT: Identify an area or aspect of your life that is a source of stress, a pattern of thought that leads you into negativity or despair, a particular way of relating that you know isn’t productive. You might identify a habitual response that is rooted in insecurity or fear, an addiction, or a place of resignation or bitterness within you. Just sit with the feeling of that enslavement. Don’t fight it or deny it. Just let it sink in and feel its weight.
FINDING THE CRY WITHIN US: Look underneath that weight and find a sound, a word or a phrase that is buried beneath your despair, resignation, bitterness, or fear.
BEING HEARD: Open your mouth and let that sound, word or phrase out. Repeat it again and again, exploring and varying pitch, volume, and tone. Let your cry tell the Truth that has until now been silenced. This may take some time. Do not stop for at least ten minutes.
REMEMBERED: In the silence that follows your cry, bring your attention to the breath and imagine the breath moving directly into the space inside your heart center. As the heart expands to receive the breath, invite your ancestors to sit inside your heart. Feel the power of their deepest longing within you. Receive their blessing.
SEEN: Imagine yourself as a very young child. Surround your vision with your most tender compassion.
KNOWN: Imagine yourself very old at the moment before a peaceful death. Breathe out your entire life. Breathe in the unknown.
1 Exodus 3:4 “God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: ‘Moses, Moses.'”
2 Exodus 3:4
3 Exodus 3:14 “And God said to Moses: ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh) and He said: ‘Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: I AM has sent me unto you.'”
4 Exodus 2:24-25 These are the verbs used to describe God becoming aware of the oppression of the Israelites.
Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.