We have just left that narrow place called Mitzrayim or Egypt. This is the place that forces us to give up our freedom to someone else or to something else. The question is who is our inner pharaoh? Who or what keeps us enslaved. In the past year I have worked with people who have become enslaved to food. Food is a necessary item for our survival. Yet so many people have allowed food to be in control. I know what this is like. After all I come from the food capital of the south- New Orleans. Driving directions are given by which restaurant is on which side of the street.
Next week is Yom Hashoah- Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is the time to remember how Jews, LGBT, Catholics, communists where enslaved by the German Nazi Party. For 20 years, I worked with Holocaust survivors. It became obvious to me that so many of them were liberated from the Concentration Camps physically but never left emotionally. Freedom becomes not just a physical freedom but an internal one as well. Dr. Edith Eger is a psychologist who is an Aushwitz survivor. She recalls that when the Russians liberated the camp, inmates sat on the ground. They did not have the fortitude to leave their captivity.
Dr. Martin Seligman wrote about “learned helplessness”. He noticed that people entrapped for so long learn how to be helpless. Many years later, he also noted that there were people that despite being entrapped instinctively knew how to help themselves. While some of the survivors I worked with continued to be victims of their horrible experience, there were others that embraced their strength to have courage.
To have both physical and internal freedom takes bravery and courage. Who would want to risk what it takes to be vulnerable in these cases. Dr. Brene Brown asks what do we do when we are faced down in the arena [where ever you view that arena to be]. How do we have the courage to risk our vulnerability. But each one of us has the inner strength to touch on and be able to rise and move forward. The Israelites trusted in the Divine being that led them out of that narrow place. The Jews have always trusted that we will be free. The Jews of Nazi Europe could depend on Allied forces to bring them out of the narrowness of the camps into true liberation. They also were able to sabotage the Nazi machinery to help in their freedom. Partisans were there to help free the enslaved.
Today, we are enslaved by a virus that knows no boundaries- rich, poor, white, people of color,republican, democrat, Jew, Christian, Muslim, atheist. We’re enslaved by Hatred and violence that denied the freedom to be safe. But there is some hope on the horizon. Vaccines are allowing people to visit in person and to hug. Perhaps vaccines have become the new Moses. We can only hope and Thank G!d for this miracle.