Saturday, January 21, 2012

Leaving Narrow Places - January 20, 2012

We read in this week’s Torah reading the five promises that God made to Moses and the Israelites about their future.  God commanded Moses:
“Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: ‘I am the Eternal One.  I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you shall know that I, the Eternal One, am your God who freed you from the labors of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I the Eternal One.’”
       The word MITZRAYIM, Egypt, is often reinterpreted as meaning a place that is TZAR, narrow.  For the Israelites, the narrow place was slavery in Egypt.    For us, our narrow places may be the pressures that we feel, be they financial, emotional, social, occupational, communal or personal, whatever their source.   It is likely that we can all see, somewhere, a promised land where most of those narrow places would no longer constrain us.     That isn’t always possible, at least for all aspects of life all at once.      
       So, for those times when the pressures seem to be too many, in order that we can find joy, perhaps words of prayer can lead us to our own personal place of promise that is no longer narrow.   This prayer from the Reform home prayerbook, On the Doorposts of Your House, is one that I find to be a source of hope that life’s promised lands - and the light at the end of the tunnel, are accessible and waiting for us to arrive.    We pray:
“We come to You, O God, for Your gracious help.  You dwell within our hearts, You feel our distress, You know our pain and how burdened we can become.  Give us strength to bear our burdens with courage, wisdom and grace.  Help us to be true to our better selves, to discern our real work in life, and to do it will all of our might.  When we struggle in our own hearts, stay by our side.   Then will we be able to say with your prophet, “But those who hold fast to Adonai shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not grow faint.”   May our work, the ties that bind us to family and friends and community, make life rich for us, so that each day we live might be another step nearer to You."   And let us say Amen.

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