We have to comprise this general definition into what we are able to discern and want to discern. In what we think and want to learn. In what we sense and desire to feel. In what we desire and want to experience with our greatest intensity. Then the whole issue lies on how exactly we want to live and experience life. At this turning point, we have to pay attention to who or what answer the question, either be ego's fantasies and illusions or Love's ways and attributes.
In this third portion of the book of Exodus, Pharaoh as the extreme egocentric approach to life presents himself as the greatest antagonist that God ever had among humans. We don't see such relationship between the Creator with any of His creatures throughout the entire Torah.
Pharaoh is eloquently defined as the only human who dared to defy God's will, besides not recognizing Him as the One and only Creator who owns and control His Creation (Pharaoh included, of course!).
Our Sages are quite correct when they equalize the infamous king of Egypt to life's powerful driving force known as ego. Let's be really honest with ourselves and admit the truth behind this. Most of what we think or believe we are or have in our consciousness, and what we think or believe outside our consciousness, are shaped by our “personal” and “individual” egocentric approach to life. See our previous commentaries on Parshat Bo: “Light as Our Destination” of February 1, 2011 and “From Darkness to Light” of January 22, 2012.
Let's face it. We are our own personal gods, believing that we own our existence and (for sure!) we control it. Not to mention controlling others. In this sense, probably a sizable amount of agnostics and atheists owe their ideologies to their egos. The Torah summarizes such mentality in this verse: “So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him, 'So said the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “how long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me”?'” (Exodus 10:3).
In the case of Pharaoh, his egocentricity was extreme to the point of self destructing his own consciousness, and his domains: “Pharaoh's servants said to him, 'How long will this one be a stumbling block to us? Let the people go and they will worship their God. Don't you yet know that Egypt is lost'?” (10:7).
As we mentioned above, we have to listen to either ego's voice as the speaker of materialistic fantasies, desires and illusions; or to Love's voice as the speaker of the goodness in life. Judaism defines Love not as thought, emotion, feeling or passion, but as the ethical principle behind those. Love itself is an ethical foundation, as the material manifestation of God's Love that also contains values, principles, ways, means and attributes. God teaches us to love in the ways He loves us.
Our reference of Love is God's Love, and nothing else. This ethical foundation shows us its ways and attributes to guide and conduct all levels and dimensions of consciousness: “Moses said, 'With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our cattle we will go, for it is a festival of the Lord to us'.” (10:9).
This verse is fundamental to understand that our connection with the Creator exists regardless our age or gender. It also reminds us that when we gather in prayers (which replaced the sacrificial offerings in the Temple of Jerusalem), we are encircled united and together in front of God.
We have said in other commentaries in this blog that the Hebrew word for “festival” means “to gather in circle” or to encircle. This approach is directly opposed to the pyramidal model of society represented by Egypt under Pharaoh's rule. This model is the result of the egocentric mentality that imposes separation according to ego's capricious whims. In spite of its destruction by God's will to set the example of Israel as the proper “encircled” society for humankind, the pyramidal pattern continued to be imposed by Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and other nations up to our current times.
This pyramidal mentality divides society in levels, casts and categories in which there are superior and inferior human beings. This mentality engenders and justifies totalitarian ideologies that promote racism, segregation, discrimination, intolerance, fanaticism; and perpetrates persecutions and genocides. These “values” go as far as deifying humans in order to make their point that there are “superior” humans. This crowns their obscurantist mentality. Hence we understand idolatry and its contemporary expression in wild capitalism and consumer's society.
This obscurantism is the darkness that Pharaoh and the Egyptians tried to imposed in the children of Israel, and the “stretched hand and extended arm” of the Creator made obsolete.
The Israelites were God's chosen victims to teach a lesson to humankind about the goodness of the circle as the opposite of the pyramid. Unfortunately, humankind hasn't learned enough from the Jews and the God of Israel.
After the plagues, the Egyptians seemed to learn and realize that living under the pyramidal system of Pharaoh was equal to being dead: “So the Egyptians took hold of the people to hasten to send them out of the land, for they said, 'we are all dead'.” (12:33).
The Exodus from Egypt as Redemption as it was for the children of Israel means not an end from slavery but a beginning from freedom. We said above that freedom is qualified and quantified either according to ego's agenda or Love's ways and attributes.
If we have learned something from all this, we may realize that we live in real freedom when we leave behind ego's constraining and restricting illusions. Once we do this, the next step it to enthrone Love's ways in all dimensions of consciousness, and in all aspects of life.