The story of Shemot – Exodus starts with the words “Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who come into Egypt…” and the Zohar explains that the book of Exodus is telling us few stories. The superficial story is the famous story of Moses delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The deeper story is about the continuous straggle between our soul (Code: The Israelites) and body (Egypt, in Hebrew: Mitsraim, from the root Meitsar (a Strait), a narrow place – our body is the soul’s prison), and that is why the Torah uses present tense – “… who come into Egypt…”, since this straggle is our reality at any moment. Each one of us has his own Pharaoh, and when we change the places of the Hebrew letters in the word Pharaoh we get the word HaOreph (the neck), implying for our body turning his neck to the soul. And it is shown in our story when Moses tells Pharaoh “Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Let My people go…” and Pharaoh replies “… Who is the LORD that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go?…” – this is the body turning his back to the soul, or the continuous war between materialistic consciousness and the spirit – a war over our identity.
The Zohar teaches that as our body grows, so is our Soul. That means that the forces of the soul (in our story: The Children of Israel) enter our body (Egypt) gradually, in stages. The true war starts at the age of Bar/Bat Mitsva, just after our Soul accumulated enough strength to give a fight back. Every year, during the six weeks that the story of Exodus is being read, we have the opportunity to go once again through that war. This period of time is called “The Shovavim time” (Shovavim, in Hebrew, is the initials of the first six portions of the book of Exodus: Shemot, VaEra, Bo, Beshalah, Yitro, Mishpatim), in which the heavens open in order to allow us to re-experience the process of growth and arriving to true maturity. True maturity is the state of mind of real freedom.
The climax in the story of the Exodus is Mt Sinai revelation; and when Moses is bringing down the tablets it is said: “and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tables” – and the Midrash explains we should not read “engraved” (Harut, in Hebrew) but Heirut (freedom). True Freedom is the state of mind that can master all our body limitations and the angel of death.
The Zohar teaches that in order to overcome the body limitations we need to choose the way of love – “… love thy neighbour as thyself…”. Since the moment we manage to get out of ourselves and love our fellow man, unconditional love is a sign that we are liberated from our body’s chains.
It is important to understand that Exodus could happen in every aspect of our lives. Each one of us has an opportunity to deliver himself out of his own Egypt. The opportunity given to us in the next six weeks is to correct times we acted in a non mature, irresponsible, selfish way (Hebrew: Shovavim).