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Liberty or Suppression?

Thursday, 24 May, 2012 - 1:38 pm

A prisoner who has been incarcerated for many years is told one day “you are free”. The Warden opens the door and leaves. He chooses to stay in the jail cell. Is he free?

At the root of this question is, if I can do whatever I want, am I free?

Our founders, in the declaration of independence, state that our Creator endowed us with certain unalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. But what is liberty? Is liberty the ability to do “whatever we want”?

There is no liberty in following our own whims and desires as such freedom is nothing more than slavery to ourselves. Freedom can only come by connecting to something infinite, divine and beyond us. True freedom is when we are free of outside influences and pressures so that we can be free to pursue the ultimate – a meaningful relationship with G-d.

There are two ways to serve G-d. I can do what will allow me to feel spiritual and have a ‘relationship’ with Him, regardless of what He wants. Or, the relationship can be on His terms, fulfilling His wishes, knowing that this will lead to a fulfilling and spiritual life.

The Mishnah says “And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty" (chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. Avot 6:2

As we re-accept the Torah and “renew our vows with G-d” on Shavuot, let us reexamine the nature of our relationship. Is this relationship giving us liberty or suppression? Is it self-centered or other centered?

We should all be blessed with a wonderful Shabbat and the ability to joyously accept the Torah in a personal and meaningful way.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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