Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Narrow Places of Mitzrayim

I'd been thinking about starting a blog for a while now.  My good friend Imabima gave me the impetus by suggesting a project for the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nisan called #BlogExodus.  During each of the fourteen (!) days remaining until we get to Passover, numerous Jewish bloggers and tweeters will be ruminating on different topics related to the Exodus.


Think about your best friends in the whole world.  I'd venture to guess that they share numerous attributes with you: your race, your religion, your socio-economic standing.  Like tends to seek out like.  In a sense, whether we do it consciously or not, we are engaging in a bit of "profiling" every time we make an acquaintance.  Will this person be enough like me that he or she fits into my comfort zone?  Or is there some trait they have that is so foreign and frightening to me that I can't possibly welcome them into my inner circle?

The issue of profiling is at the forefront these days as we grapple with the aftermath of two tragic cases:  the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the death of three young Jewish students and a rabbi in Tolouse, France.  Though separated by distance, the two instances have some sad similarities.

George Zimmerman, the shooter in Florida (who does not appear to be Jewish, despite the efforts by some online pundits do depict him as such) and Mohammed Merah, the self-professed al Qaeda sympathizer who was the gunman in France, seem to have been deeply troubled individuals.  Something in them led to perceive the "otherness" of their victims as a threat, and thus they turned to violence.

Quick quiz...which of these objects is the most dangerous?

Our sages teach us that in every generation, we must perceive of the Exodus from Egypt not as an event from long ago in history, but as something that each of us is still experiencing to this very day.  They make a linguistic connection between Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, and the word Metzar, meaning a narrow place.  The idea is that we each have our moments of narrow-mindedness; we each have beliefs and ideals that occasionally constrict and confine us.  If we can break free from this narrowness, perhaps we can find a brighter future.

I may be an idealist, but I believe that someday love will win out over hate and fear, and we'll finally get out of Mitzrayim.

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