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You're Not Free

Thursday, 21 March, 2013 - 8:03 am


Dear Rabbi,

With Passover only a few days away, the topic of freedom comes to mind regularly; the Jews were freed from Egypt, we are no longer slaves; we are FREE. Seven weeks later we received the Torah, which has 613 commandments, thus regulating practically every detail of our life.

Rabbi you are an "observant Jew", who is "restricted" with so much that you can do, you are not free . I am not so observant so I am free! Just a thought!

Menachem Rogers


Dear Menachem,

Oxford Dictionary has ten definitions under the entry freedom. Here are two of them: (1) the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint and (2) the power of self-determination attributed to the will.

So while both are correct definitions of freedom, which one would make  us "free?" Is it (1) the ability to do what we want, when we want and however we want; or is it (2) a determination to live our lives by a set of standards, beliefs and commitment to the ultimate truth?

Well, you can ask a recovered alcoholic whether they would consider their current life of restraint 24/7 as freedom in comparison to their previous life; you can ask the unemployed if they enjoy their new-found free time or would they prefer the slavery of having to punch in precisely at 8:00 am. Similarly, you can ask an observant Jew who hasn't grown up that way, whether their current commitment to Torah observance is freedom, in comparison to their previous life.

Whether we admit it or not, we are all slaves: to our employer, to our family, to our community, to our body and many other "bosses." It is when we are living the life of Torah and every moment and every act, even one as mundane as tying our shoes, is done according to G-d's will, that we are infusing purpose, meaning and "freedom" into every second of every day.

Every Mitzvah, even if it's just one, or even just one time, elevates the person and adds to their freedom. It is not all or nothing. Life is like a ladder and every rung climbed brings us closer to G-d, closer to freedom.

So this Pesach, let's truly celebrate our Freedom.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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