Moving Through Mitzrayim Towards Freedom & Possibility

By Elana Wien, Senior Advisor & Inaugural Executive Director, SRE Network

narrow strait

In Jewish tradition, we count the days between Passover and Shavuot, commemorating the days between when the Israelites moved from mitzrayim, or ‘narrow straits’ of Egypt to receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. During this time, we reflect on the middot or moral principles needed to make this transition from slavery to freedom. In our tradition, to be free is a collective journey. 

Today we as Jews find ourselves caught in a narrow place. The rise in antisemitism has reinforced our age-old fear, earned through centuries of discrimination and persecution: We will never be safe. We will never be truly free. 

In the face of this fear, many are turning inward, narrowing our circles of influence and support. This can lead to a narrowness of ideas, a narrowed view of what is possible. 

Many of the tools we have turned to in recent years to ensure safety, respect, and equity for all are being blamed for our suffering. These include frameworks developed by experts, practitioners, and thought leaders that help us understand how racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and other injustices prevent people from accessing opportunities, and strengthen our society as a whole. 

There is a deep irony that the tools developed to liberate us from collective mitzrayim in schools, workplaces, and community have become the scapegoats for our collective suffering.

We understand scapegoats. 

Time and again we have been scapegoats for the collective ills of the time. Cast out from nations, pushed into hiding. Removing mezuzahs from our doorways, refraining from publicly wearing items that signify we are Jewish, and staying home from school to ensure our safety. 

But ensuring all people are treated fairly and have pathways to lead a healthy, sustainable life is a deeply Jewish principle and we cannot abandon it. 

How do we recommit to equity for all when we ourselves are being treated unfairly? We start by examining what we believe about what is possible. 

Is it true that we will never be treated fairly? We have so many reasons to believe this. But allowing ourselves to believe the inevitability of our suffering is allowing ourselves to be chained in mitzrayim.

Equity is not just a lens for what is just. It is a lens for what is possible

Let us not lose sight of what is possible. 

May we move collectively through mitzrayim, this narrow place, toward a future that is brighter for all.

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