What Is Your Own Personal “Exodus”?

By Shlomo Maital


Survey of the Children of Israel, 3000 years ago:  +/- 3% random error,

“Should we leave or stay?”

 Today is the seventh and last day of the Jewish religious festival, Passover. It coincides with Easter, because the Jewish religious calendar is lunar and Easter too is determined by the lunar calendar (The Last Supper was the Passover Seder).  

   During Passover, we recount the story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt.  Today, in synagogue, we read the Song of the Sea, a Biblical passage that extols how G-d saved the Jews by parting the Red Sea, then drowning the Egyptian King and his soldiers.  My wife and I struggle with that passage (which is also read in daily prayers), because we do not think Jewish values condone exulting when people die, even if it’s your fiercest enemy sworn to kill you.  So, here is how I deal with it.

     Every nation has a legend about how it was born.  The Exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom in our own land, is that of the Jewish people.  This story, about defying impossible odds, confronting Pharaoh, persuading the majority of doubters, and making a 40-year dry-as-dust sojourn through the Sinai Desert to reach the Promised Land, is seminal.   It led Israel’s leaders to declare statehood, in 1948, when every sane advisor advised not to and when the entire population of Israel was less than the rounding error of surrounding Arab nations.  It leads young Israelis to launch startups, against impossible odds.   The story of the Exodus had to be dramatic enough to burn itself into the culture and consciousness of a people and to stick there for 3,000 years.  And it doesn’t matter if it happened or if it didn’t.  It achieved its goal – to shape and sustain a people, even through the Holocaust. 

     Every person has a legend.  A personal legend is about what happened to you in the past,  what is happening to you now, and what will happen to you in the future.  You own your legend. You have EVERY right to interpret the past, as you wish, to alter it, to shape your consciousness and behavior. And for sure, you have the right to make an Exodus – to examine where you are, coldly and objectively, and if you are not where you wish to be, make your own Exodus, lead yourself out of bondage, and into the freedom you seek.  Make your own legend. And do it now!

    I did.  After prostate cancer, I chose to take early retirement (Exodus) from an uncomfortable university professorship (comfortable in every way except the useless research I was churning out), and since then have produced books and textbooks that I hope are useful for managers and students of management.  My latest book, due out soon, is about creativity and how to strengthen it.   I have my own personal legend – breaking the invisible chains of tenure to do only what is productive and useful and meaningful, to find meaning. 

    What is your Exodus?  What is your personal legend?  What will you tell yourself, ten years from now, about what you are living today?   Is it a legend you love?  If not, what will you do about it?  What excuses are you making to avoid your Exodus, and will you be Moses or  Dumbo?  Are you making meaning? Or money?

     Don’t listen to your internal pro-Pharaoh voice.  Defy it.