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April 8, 2012

by Stephen Damon

Last night I went to a seder commemorating the second evening of the Jewish holiday, Passover or Pesach.  We used a Haggadah that I edited with commentary, which is distributed by SPD Books.  I tried to use the experience of my sitting practice to shed new light on a very old teaching.  Here are just a couple of excerpts from the Introduction:

Listen to this tale that I first heard from my grandmother who heard it from her grandmother who had heard it from her grandmother, and so on, all the way back to as far back as anyone can remember. I hope I get it right, just the way I heard it, not adding and not subtracting, just telling.

So cover your heads and please take off your shoes, for this is Holy Ground. Listen to the One who calls to us from the silence of the days before the Beginning. Tonight, we celebrate. So, lean back on your pillows, loosen your belts, and enjoy the feast before us. Symbolic foods and prayers will help us change the direction of our lives and begin the long return back to the Source

…Before we were born, angels showed us the secrets of the entire universe:

Sweeping the cosmos in the prophet’s chariot, the soul sees all things at once. Centuries collapse into a timeless expanse that the soul can hardly comprehend. History recedes, vanishing in the end of days. The meshiach rejoices as wrathful prophets dance arm and arm with tzaddikim who kick up their heels in ecstasy. The streets are crowded through the seven realms as the cemeteries are emptied. The journey ends when the soul readies to descend into a body, here on earth. An angel strikes us above our lips and we forget everything that we have been shown…

So begins our wandering and every step we take leads us further away from our Source. From our first breath to our last we are asked to make the return, teshuvah! Tonight we remember Israel’s exile in Egypt but our Return through the desert and Red Sea to the Promised Land is within us.

Egypt is not an ancient empire so much as it is an inner state from which we have to free ourselves. The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means limitations, restrictions, obstacles. The first-century Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, said that Egypt represents the part of us that is enslaved by our body and a “mixed multitude” of irrational thoughts and desires.



From → Zen Buddhism

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