Between Moses and Pharaoh
One fateful night in Egypt some thirty-three centuries ago, a nation of slaves rebelled and fled from its oppressors. Since that night, the story of the exodus from Egypt has become the symbol of resistance to oppression.
The exodus from Egypt is in fact, a picturesque description of the most consequential, far-reaching moment in one’s life—the passing over from the corporeal world to the spiritual world. Kabbalists call it “the crossing of the barrier.” A person who crosses the barrier discovers a vast world where the Creator and the soul converse freely, and the Creator becomes that person’s guide. Such people were Abraham, Moses, and all the prophets and Kabbalists who followed them. Such is also the future of each of us—to walk freely in the world of the Creator.
All of the stories in the Five Books of Moses symbolize different spiritual processes. If we know how to read them, they will teach us about our future spiritual states. For example, the story of the Children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is unique—it is the only Bible story that describes the process of how one enters the spiritual world.
In all the ancient scriptures, the Creator is described as a benevolent, giving entity. Kabbalah explains that entering the spiritual world means becoming like Him—benevolent. To enter the spiritual world and make first contact with the Creator, Kabbalists tell us we must learn how to become giving, since this would make us similar to Him. Kabbalists regard Moses as a tiny point in our hearts that wants to be like the Creator—giving. Pharaoh, on the other hand, is the core of evil, the epitome of egoism.
Because Moses is weak and cannot defeat the powerful, egoistic Pharaoh, the Creator kindly offers His help: “Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12). All through the story of exodus, Moses keeps returning to the Creator, and the Creator keeps sending him to face Pharaoh. And every time Moses wins a round, the Creator hardens Pharaoh’s heart even more.
Israel, in Kabbalah, personifies Moses’ “friends,” desires that want to be givers, too. When Pharaoh’s oppression becomes too much to bear, the people of Israel understand that they have no other choice but to make a run for it. They feel that they have to escape egoism, even if it means being lost in the desert.
In the desert, they find two things: they pass over to the spiritual world and discover the Creator, and in the process, they discover their love for one another. Ever since that moment at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the revelation of the Creator has meant fleeing from Pharaoh (egoism), following Moses (altruism), and bonding with our fellow human beings.
This second issue of Kabbalah Today will dedicate much of its space to the holiday of Passover, showing how we can tap into its deep, spiritual meaning.