Pesach – the holiday of celebrating freedom! We all know the story. The Jews were in Egypt for 210 years. Near the end the persecution and torture were so profound that the screams pierced the gates of heaven. The Almighty, with an outstretched arm, redeemed our Nation.
“Freedom” – ask for a definition and most will tell you – “the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, as much as you want, for as long as you want.”
The Torah definition is profoundly different. The Mishna in the Ethics of Our Fathers tells us that true freedom is only possible when one commits himself to living a life of Torah.
At first this seems counter intuitive. Locked into 613 mitzvos – 248 “thou shalt dos” . . . and 365 “thou shalt nots” – that’s freedom?!
The answer is that the wherewithal to do whatever one wants is not freedom. It is called liberty or license. Freedom is having the wisdom, discipline and courage to take one’s liberty and gear it into a creative, productive, meaningful and happy life.
An inner city kid who scores a professional sports contract is liberated from the shackles of poverty. But if lacks the wisdom to manage his riches responsibly, he might end up trading his former prison with other prisons - various addiction, conspicuous consumption and the like.
Judaism is all about freedom in its truest sense. The Torah is the blueprint of the Universe. It holds the key to being creative, productive and happy on all levels – individual, family, community, society, and on a cosmic level. All we must do is look at how Jews have been able to survive, remain vibrant and be a beacon of morality, justice, compassion and mercy for the world throughout the ages.
Pesach is a time of tapping into the spirit of freedom.