This is one of my favorite teachings: “I don’t care what denomination you’re a member of, as long as you’re ashamed of it.” Rabbi Yitz Greenberg is a sage of our day who understands and teaches, that no matter our affiliation, be it religious, political, national or academic, the moment that survival becomes the primary rationale, is the moment when the soul of the cause that gave it life is dead, or has at least been reconciled to the garbage heap.
Every cause develops rituals, beliefs, ways of being. In the moment when they are created and soon after, these rituals resonate with the earth shattering but life affirming energy they are meant to represent. But soon after, even within one or two generations, the rituals can quickly ring hollow unless they are called upon to both root us in memory as well as inspire us to envision a different (and better) tomorrow. Every flag, candle, pitcher of water, spice, dish, prayer and song can suffer this meaning-gutting.
If we are to rise, arrive, experience, envision, imagine and dream a different world, we must exit Egypt once again. Exodus isn’t a one-time historical or even one-time personal experience. It’s a multi-layered, repetitive and often tedious process of reexamining everything we believed to be true. Often, we’ll find we still indeed believe what we do believe. But often enough, we will find that what we did believe no longer stands up to the test of deeper or simply, more mature and deeper inquiry. And ay! there’s the rub. For the question at that moment comes down to courage, and whether or not we can muster enough of it to shift and stand in a new truth. One that doesn’t discount what we used to believe, but nonetheless understands that the worth of the old truth is calculated by how well we are able to leave it behind, leaving Egypt once again.