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Drama or Trauma: Who Are You When You Cross the Red Sea?

Shvi’i shel Pesach, the seventh day of Pesach: drama, trauma. Professor Carol Gilligan, Dr. Gabor Maté, Rav Chisda, Miriam HaNevia and each one of us, what do we share in common? These are the questions that stand in front of us.

It’s one thing to leave Mitzrayim, but it’s another thing to cross Yamsuf.

Rav Chisda says a person always has to cross through two thresholds before praying. What does that have to do with drama and trauma?  I want to share with you an idea from Professor Gilligan, who describes trauma as a split between our emotions and our thoughts. Dr. Gabor Maté, he says that trauma isn’t what happens to us but how we relate to it.

So my question for all of us is how do we describe and how do we interpret what happened to us in Egypt and then what happened these seven days leading to the split of the ocean and then how do we go through it?

The waters are standing to the right and to our left. Those two pillars, those two entrances…the Gemara says not literally two entrances but how long it takes. The Ba’al Shem Tov is quoted as saying that love and awe and fear, those are the two parameters for each one of us. What are those two parameters that we use to share in order to tell our story or to interpret our story or to explain to ourselves and to others what happened? How do we create that bind between our mind and our thoughts and our emotions? How do we integrate ourselves?

I want to say that when Pharaoh says to Moshe, “Who?” So on the seder night we ask a lot of questions of what, but I want to say that what is still a question of slavery. What is still a question that is holding us back in Mitzrayim. But who, who are you? Not what are you, but who? What tells me what you do but who are you tells me of your essence.

I walk into freedom is about walking away from what I am to who I am. That is how we can interpret our freedom and that’s how we can make the shift between what I call drama or trauma. Yes, things happened and that’s a drama but whether or not it’s going to be a trauma, whether it’s going to hold us back or not, that’s in our hands.

Miriam in the Midrash tells us she actually didn’t want for a moment to leave Mitzrayim, she didn’t want to cross. She wanted to leave but she didn’t want to cross the ocean and that’s also our choice.

We have that choice. Being totally free means that we can make our choices. You wanted to not leave Mitzrayim at all – 80 percent didn’t leave Mitzrayim. You want to leave Mitzrayim and not cross the ocean, that’s also a choice. You cross the ocean and how do you come out of it? Are you singing? Are you dancing? These are all the choices that we can make.

I pray and I bless us all that we have the strength to not only leave Mitzrayim but also cross Yamsuf, to be able to define for ourselves what are those two walking sticks that we need.

You’ll be liberated if you can ask yourselves, “Who are you? Who am I? Now that I’ve come through this, who am I?”

I pray that we can answer that question for ourselves and not hold on to the manishtana, the what questions of the Seder but the me questions of liberation, of freedom, of moving forward, yes into the unknown and nonetheless, moving forward.

Chag Sameach from Schechter.

Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and  teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.

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