|It’s always hard to be a stranger. I was born in Santa Monica California, and I remember so clearly what it felt like to be wrenched from my home and school and friends and all that I knew at age 16 in the middle of High School when my father’s work suddenly moved him and his family to Sacramento. It was at the same time a frightening and exciting time as I faced the unknown of a new school and new community not knowing anyone and having no idea what the future would hold.
As you would expect, I lost sleep at night worrying about how I would integrate into a new school in the 11th grade, how I would make new friends and all the nightmares large and small that accompany facing the unknown. As with so many fears we have in life, not only didn’t the nightmare scenarios of being forever alone and rejected come true, but the move to Sacramento proved to be the best thing that ever happened to me. The friends I met, the experiences I had, the opportunities I discovered changed my life and set me on a spiritual and professional path that provided me with a greater sense of personal growth, success and fulfillment than I could have ever imagined or experienced had I stayed in Santa Monica.
Every year at this season as we celebrate Passover we are told that our primary obligation is to personally experience the transformation from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the path to the Promised Land. “In every generation each of us is commanded to see ourselves as if we personally were freed from the slavery of Egypt” says the Haggadah. It is about being strangers in a strange land and the lessons we can learn when we have the courage to strike out on a new and unknown path.
Passover is our communal challenge and opportunity to leave the Egypts (Mitzraim or “narrow places” in Hebrew) that have constricted our spiritual growth, bound us to the enslavements of our past and deadened our understanding of the possible by encircling us in the comfort and safety of the known.
Pearl S. Buck once said, “The young do not know enough to be prudent; and, therefore, they attempt the impossible – and achieve it, generation after generation.” That is our personal challenge especially at this Passover season – to approach life fearlessly – to have the courage to leave our own enslavements behind and walk hand in hand through the sea of doubt and into the future together. We read the Torah every year over and over again, yet we never get to the Promised Land. It isn’t the getting there that matters, it’s the journey that counts. That is the secret of Pesakh – to pass over the fears and timidity and insecurity and intimidations of our lives and have the faith to take one step at a time into the unknown. For ultimately, that is the only way that anything of value, anything of greatness, anything that truly matters has ever come about.