Later tonight is the first night of the Festival of Passover. It is probably the most exhausting of all Jewish holidays primarily because of the added dietary restrictions (no chametz or leavened foodstuff) to the already complex kosher laws. Interestingly (or should I say ironically?), it is also and more notably known as the Time of Our Freedom (Zman Cheiruteinu). In a historical and/or literal sense, it is the celebration of the Jewish people’s actual freedom from Egyptian bondage some 3000 years ago as related in the Torah’s second book, Shemot (aka Exodus).
So what is interesting about that, you ask? It is what happens next after the Jewish people became “free.”
We all know that famous line “let my people go!” repeatedly told by Moses to Pharaoh. But that line is actually incomplete. And Moses was only relating a message from G-d. The full text says “let My people go that they may serve Me” (Shemot 7:26). This, I believe, is how the Torah defines freedom.
When we think about it, the freedom we perceive we have is really just an illusion. When it comes down to the bigger things, we are granted without any control at all. We neither have the freedom to choose our parents, nor our physical attributes, nor our mental capacity (among so many other things). We are not even free to choose to be born!
So does that mean we are not free to do anything? I think the only freedom we really have is in our moral choices. “Moral” may mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For me, it has to be a G-d-given and thus absolute morality.
This Passover, we Jews celebrate the opportunity G-d has given us to be free from all other things — from our inclinations and addictions, from our habits and attitudes, from our regrets and fears — so we may serve Him. Most people might say that rules and more rules are stifling; that having to follow 613 commandments is more slavery than freedom. I say there is nothing more freeing than knowing what exactly it is you are supposed to do and that you find great meaning in accomplishing it.
P.S. I have also taken the meaning of this Passover lesson to finally start this new writing project. I have had this wordpress account for a long time and have planned and written several unfinished drafts to put in it. But as you can see, I never got around to posting any of them. So today, on the eve of this amazing holiday, I choose to free myself from laziness, unproductive perfectionism and fear of rejection and criticism.