We are just about to pass over Passover. We have
refrained from matzoh— that so-called “bread of affliction”,
that flat, humble, totally devoid of being “puffed up” from yeast bread, which the Rabbinic Sages equated with the human “ego” “Egypt” and “Pharaoh”.
Well certainly ego, especially “bloated ego” of the kind Emerson
spoke of, can interfere with one’s spiritual development. I do not need to do what newspaper headlines do much better (and lately, they add ego to the ego, in their cheap “journalism”).
They demonstrate all our contemporary problems of the ego, all of which, simplifying it greatly, are the result of one thing: asserting the polarity “me” over the polarity “us” or “other”. Or, the polarity of any one or two of these over the third.
However, let’s be clear. The disparagement of ego is itself a great act of ego. After all, if ego exists, and there is a God that designed our world to be GOOD, well, then ego must have a purpose, a value. And even the evils of ego must have a purpose, a value. As the Sages of Blessed Memory said, “without the yetzer ha-ra [the tendency to due evil due to lustful egotism] no man would build a house or father a family.”
“Me” is very important. And now that we’ve left the leaving of Egypt,
we need to remind ourselves of the glorious gift of “me”. Praise God for having made me, for granting me an ego.
In search of so-called “spirituality” many people these days, seeking God, are finding spirituality through Hindu or Eastern-inspired religions. The task here is often the depreciation of ego, and the removal of it. And it is quite fascinating that many of these devotees are often financially-troubled, or even poverty-stricken. Yet, they may live in wonderful ashrams. I do not think they have rid themselves of ego. I simply think they have neutralized the excess of personal-ego excessively, in favor of a group-ego, and particularly a guru-ego. But, the personal ego is not gone; it has been rendered less functional.
It is a great gift of the Jewish People to have a God who chose us
because we were “stiff-necked”— stiff-necked, that bridge between
a very hard-head and a body, an isthmus of stubbornness, where the thoughts and the body are totally-cemented, into a single-focus and directed person.
Our stiff-necked Jewish natures have served us quite well, when you consider the degree to which our Jewish-ego decimated the egos of the world largest Imperia in the world. We survived. They didn’t. Our ego won.
You see it is not ego that is the problem. It is the imbalance of ego, or the false-use of the ego, in a Pharaonic way perhaps, to enslave and debase others. Doing so denies the Presence of the Holy One
in that person. False ego asserts itself as the organizing factor of
human life, and it continuously fails—not without causing a lot of problems–– because it is a lie against God. It betrays the Nature of Life.
The words in Genesis are terribly translated I think. We are created “bitzelem v’demut”, “in the image and likeness” of God. “Bitzelem”
means to reflect the nature of God; in being creative, we do this quite well. “V’demut” means to be “cut off” in the sense of separated and distinct. It is better translated “individuated”. An individual IS an ego. It is a creature that is not the mere impulses of earthly nature through itself, but a creature that can stand back from these impulses, look at them, objectively view them, and then choose to act one way or another. The impulses of nature are under a super-natural consciousness. This is the beginning of spirituality,
and moral discretion. This is also the beginning of one other thing:
Technology is the ultimate proof of the power of the human ego. Technology is the result of being able to ingest, digest, catabolize, metabolize, and assimilate the fruit or “result” of God’s Knowledge i.e. our world, and how it’s created. Technology allows us to assert our ego, and our understanding, and grant us radah, dominion, over materia and other life-forms.
Technology allows us to not be bound to the earth, and fly to the
moon and beyond. Technology allows us to, as individual egos,
alter the human genome and change evolution, consciously, for
our benefit, or, dangerously, for our whim.
Technology, back in the ancient world, was agriculture. And also,
lest we think it was mere superstition, it was present as sacrifice. The ancient priests used to perform a technology which asserted their egoist domination over animals.
Now— it is this priestly technology that is the key to how to balance and use our blessed ego. Our ancient kohanim did not just murder animals, but sacrificed them, in a “sacred action” under God, the Creator. Thus the God of humankind, with technology, and the God of Creation, with nature’s design, co-operate: covenant. Thus, human ego and God’s Living Presence in nature, do not battle, but work together. God first. Us second. The Supreme Ego first. The human ego second. Get the order? It’s just how the world was made!
In the Hebrew viewpoint, the ego is not forfeited, dissolved into some mystical God. The ego is not bloated, asserting dominance over everything, indeed declaring “I am God”. The Hebrew view is, ego is great, in its correct place. Correct, from the Latin, co-regire: to govern together. Correct means– mindful of the statutes and ordinances by which our world is designed.
Pharaoh’s ego was bloated. And in Egypt, the Israelite ego was demoted. And both of these polarities are equally violations of the gift of individuality which is the very source of the blessing of ego.
Now that you’re out of Egypt— with Spring blossoming after the ego-devastation of winter— let your ego out! Enjoy your ego!
Perhaps a safe and spiritually productive “ego-trip” would be in order. A touch of Pharaoh is very human.
Ego is precious.
Ego is a blessing.
Ego will make you holy.
Remember the slogan of The Association for Universal Judaism. “Life is Holy. Celebrate”.
You can’t celebrate without an ego. There no celebration of life, without you!
Post-pesach blessings to all.