Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Ties that Bind

It’s currently the festival of Passover that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt (Mitzra-yim) means constraints. Hence the festival is not just about leaving physical slavery but also mental and spiritual slavery.

The introduction to The Complete Artscroll Machzor (festival prayer book) for Passover contains the following extract based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen:
“…Chiddushei HaRim comments that there were three kinds of Jews in Egypt. There were some who perceived God in everything; they were not in exile at all in the truest sense, because nothing impaired their awareness of God in all things. At the other extreme, there were other Jews who were equally not in exile, because they were so thoroughly assimilated into the beliefs of Egypt that they considered themselves Egyptians, albeit enslaved and persecuted. Their goal was not to leave Egypt, but to be accepted by their masters… Finally, there was the mass of Jews in the middle. They were in true exile because they were not part of Egypt nor did they wish to be…”

Each of us at some point in our lives confronts the thought of: is there more to life than this? A moment when we become aware of the chains that bind us and have to choose whether to take action or not.

Most people move between the three mind-frames rather than live only in one. Exceptional people such as Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky, despite being imprisoned were always free in their minds and spirits.

At the other extreme are people who live just for the moment, to experience whatever pleasures they can and focus only on the physical rather than spiritual growth.

The rest are somewhere in between, moving closer to side of spiritual freedom for a time and back to the side of exile of the spirit on the other. My personal experience of this is the festivals and Shabbat that are islands in time for family time and spiritual growth. The remainder of the week the “yoke of mundane/worldly affairs” rests on my shoulders and I have to deal with work, bills, travel, etc.

Following a path of development in magic and mysticism can help a person keep their attention more focused on being free in one’s spirits – but it still requires breaking the mental bonds and chains that bind us.

My job role is not a part of my identity, it’s how I manifest my will in the world of commerce but it barely reflects my inner nature. My mortgage is a vehicle for providing a nice place to live for my family and I, but it’s only a crushing monetary weight if I allow it to become one in my mind.

My point is that in your head you have the power to break the chains that everyday life seems to force you to carry. Once you break those bonds you can carry on doing exactly the same job, commute and other activities, however in your heart and mind you are free.