If religion and spirituality remain untilled fields for you -- and yet you feel a call to become a harvester of the wisdom heritage of humanity, pick up a book by Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of mythology. Much of my method for interpreting and lifting meaning from ancient texts comes from the insights he culled in his beautiful body of work. I go back to him so often, again now, in search of the Goddess, and an ancient feminine spirituality that has been caked over by thousands of years of patriarchy.
Last night he told me the story of how human beings birth gods. Male divinities, warrior gods, are born of cultures that are hunters, and shepherds, where men were responsible for the sustenance of the community. But in earlier cultures that subsisted on agriculture, women planted seeds in the earth, and were responsible for nurturing their communities. Of the sexes, the woman is the one capable of the regenerative process by which life is reborn, like the Earth bringing forth fruit -- priestesses, god as woman -- such was the way of the world, before the patriarchy invaded.
The Passover season that approaches brings with it our mythology of rebirth. But don’t let yourself be confused -- we’re not reading history, and we’re not only reading the story of Jewish peoplehood -- this is myth. And the whole of the story is a metaphor for the spiritual rebirth available to you in any season, particularly fitting, at the occasion when the Earth itself is also reborn with spring.
So read Exodus! That’s your assignment. But remember that all the characters, the gods and the humans, the famous lines, “let my people go,” the plagues, and the symbols, the bush, the sea split -- they are all taking place inside of you. If only you will let them.
Here it is -- https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.1?lang=en&aliyot=0
One more thought. It occurred to us at a seder a few years ago, that this is one of the first generations of Jewish people who read the Passover story, and find more in common with the Egyptians than the Israelites. Our lives are not marked by oppression; that was not the case for most of our ancestors. As we take stock of our place in the world, and the responsibility that our privilege entails and our tradition demands, regarding the pursuit of justice for all people regardless of ethnicity, skin color, gender and so forth -- the story has changed.
The myth is universal. At every season we strive for rebirth with greater wisdom and compassion. But the unspoken mutable laws of society inhibit the grace by which some people are able to pursue the renewal of their personal and communal evolutions. We were strangers in the land of Egypt. We know oppression in our bones. We cannot rest while others suffer.
Rabbi Zach Fredman