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Rabbis' Blog

You Call That Freedom?!

Question:

Passover is a baffling holiday. Many thousands of years ago we were redeemed from slavery in Egypt, only to become enslaved by many more rules and restrictions! Frankly, Judaism can be quite cumbersome.  Is this the freedom we so needed?

Answer:

In recent history G-d’s command to Pharaoh “Let my people go!”, with its concomitant ideal of Freedom, has become the motto or tagline of Passover. But a quick examination of the text in Exodus reveals that the sentence does not end there. ”Let my people go,” G-d says, “so that they may serve me”

Freedom, as defined by the Torah, is not the ability to do as we wish – but the ability to do what G-d wishes us to do.

The dramatic account of Passover is not one of self-determination, but of self-actualization. It gave us the awesome opportunity to serve G-d as determined by Him in the Torah. The Torah is the instruction manual for our souls. Even its seemingly restrictive laws are there to allow us to tap in to our inner self and to realize our purpose in life.

We instinctively recognize the need for discipline for self-actualization. We teach our children restraint, temperance, and the delaying of gratification, not to restrict their freedom but to enhance it, so that they may grow to lead fulfilling lives, free from enslavement to our baser instincts and inclinations. “Be all that you can be” was once the motto – not of the Carnival Cruise ship but – of one of the most disciplined institutions in the world, the U.S. Army.

Winning the lottery, on the other hand, can give one the opportunity to do anything he wishes. The sad reality though is, that the vast majority of winners squander their winnings rather quickly and live the rest of their lives in abject misery. They become enslaved to their monetary fortune and to their own whims and fancies.

The discipline of Torah affords us the opportunity to live our lives with the greatest purpose – to serve G-d. That is true Freedom.

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