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Let the Sunshine In

By default, the sun emanates light. The circumstances through which the light is blocked are all external obstacles – whether they are natural or man-made. As long as there is some obstacle between me and the sun, the light will never shine on me. If I want to let more light into my life – more meaning, more spirituality, more goodness – then the question I have to ask myself is: What’s blocking the light? If I can figure out what the blockage is, then I can remove it and allow the light to shine through.

Sometimes the shadow is cast upon me by external factors that are – to varying degrees – not entirely under my control. I can do my best to avoid or minimize them, but at the end of the day there are going to be situations in which there is not much I can do to remove the obstacle. Shade is a dimension of reality that I have to learn to live with, and even sometime appreciate.

But, honestly, most of the obstacles are actually self-generated. Whether it is a propensity toward anger, self-aggrandizement, lethargy, or uncontrollable temptations and addictions, the negativity I generate from within and project outwards form barriers that block the light, or make me unable to appreciate it when it is there. These follies stop me from attaining the intelligence, harmony, health, wealth, world domination, or whatever it is I’m after in life. Working to correct these follies removes the obstacles and allows the light to shine into my life.

On a deeper, more existential level, the obstacle that blocks the light is, ironically, me.

Do I then have to remove myself so that I don’t block the light? And if I do succeed somehow in achieving this, then who will be there to benefit from the light once I remove myself?

The answer is Passover. What makes this night different than all other nights? That is the question that begins the historical and existential journey known as the Passover Seder.

One of the differences, the one that most explicitly symbolizes the theme of freedom that is so central to this festival, is the custom of reclining while eating the matza and drinking the traditional four cups of wine at the Seder. On the simplest level, the reclining is an expression of our status as a free people, one of the motifs of Passover as a whole and the Seder in particular. In Kabbalistic sources, the custom of reclining is described in more spiritual terms, perhaps exposing the mystical roots of what freedom is all about.

The body can generally be divided into three sections that are organized hierarchically according to function: The head, the torso and the legs. In a standing or a seated position, the hierarchical structure is maintained; the head is above the torso, which is above the legs. However, when a person reclines or lies down, all three sections of the body are on the same level. This is an expression of ultimate freedom. When an individual can focus all of his or her powers toward one goal, with all aspects of the individual equally humbled before the same ideals.

Often, our minds and hearts and bodies each tend to have their own agendas, and the striving of each one in its own direction is the source of great internal strife. But when we focus on the common goal for which all these components were placed within us, then they recline together to serve that common purpose and we are freed of the internal conflicts they generate individually. By subjugating my entire being to something beyond my own little life, I focus all my energy together. I remove myself as an obstacle to the light, and a new, humbled self is created that can then bask in the light shining past the removed obstacle that was my old self. I pass over myself, and let the light shine.

Reproduced with permission from Exodus Magazine



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