Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blogging the Exodus: The Narrow Places

"Mitzrayim", the Hebrew word for Egypt, means "narrow places". this makes sense geographically, as the country itself snaked along the Nile, a very narrow corridor of civilization surrounded by wasteland. Likewise, that word has been fodder for many commentator, speaking of Egypt as the "birth canal" from which a sacred people emerged (through narrow spaces: the Sea of Reeds), to the idea found in Mishkan T'fillah (and a hallmark of community organizing): 

“Standing on the parted shores of history, we still believe what we were taught before ever we stood at Sinai: that where ever we are, it is eternally Egypt that there is a better place a promised land; that the winding way to that promise passes thru the wilderness, that there is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands marching together.” 

All appropriate ideas about Mitzrayim: the allegorical, the midrashic, the metaphorical, the 'pshat' (plain meaning). But none of them are personal. Art Green, in speaking to the CCAR this past week, talked about personal theology and that part of it is the idea that we all have our own particular narrow places, our own mitzrayim. Part of personal theology or spirituality is having someone you can talk to about that narrowness, someone you can cry out to, in the same way Israel cried out to God.

So, what are your narrow places? Where do the walls close in on you? Is it in a relationship with another, or a set of expectations, a personal limitation or setback, or a memory that hems you in? What is your mitzrayim and who can you talk to about it?


  1. I love that passage that appears in Mishkan T'fillah. It's beautifully articulated.

    All too often, my mitzrayim is life at home with a child on the autism spectrum. I have found that as much as they want to help, family and friends who are not living with autism daily simply don't truly understand. Seeking out other moms has provided camaraderie on this rocky path.

  2. Yes, sharing with others who are experiencing the same type of situation can be very helpful.

    However, the question "who can you talk to about it?" hits a sore spot with me. I have made the mistake in the past of turning to clergy when my mitzrayim has involved the Jewish community or synagogue itself. Some rabbis just don't care to share their shoulders with those who cannot appropriately turn to anyone else.

  3. As the above comments point out, so hard to do, so hard to identify those marching along with you. Even those with the same destination may be walking along different paths. My friends are those whose path is quite close to mine; my acquaintances are those whose path is crossing mine. One of life's pleasures is discovering a friend.