As the holiday of Passover-the season of Freedom-approaches, I wanted to share a concept with you that I hope you will find interesting and thought provoking.
Freedom—a great American value. As it’s sung at the end of the Star Spangled Banner… “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” But what does Freedom mean?
When we think of freedom, we think of being able to do what we want—to be free of any external limits, restrictions or responsibilities.
But, our Sages-the Great Rabbis of the Past- teach is that “There is no one freer than the person involved in Torah” — The intensive study of Jewish text and living a committed Jewish life.
How can this be? Jewish law requires an adherence to many positive and negative commandments. As an example: we should eat matza the first two nights of Passover and not eat or have even in our possession any ‘chometz’, leavened food during the 8 days of Passover.
Why is this called Freedom? It seems restrictive and confining rather than liberating and empowering. The answer lies in the words of author and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore.
“I have on my table a violin string. It is free to move in any direction I like. If I twist one end, it responds: it is free. But it is not to free to sing. So I take it and fix it into my violin. I bind it and when it is bound, it is free for the first time to sing.”
Torah true Judaism binds us to be able to play G-d’s music in this world and fulfill our mission on Earth. Not coincidentally, when Moses asked Pharaoh to allow the Jews to leave Egypt, he quoted G-d and said “Let my people go so that they will serve Me.” He didn’t just ask for freedom, He asked that they be free to serve G-d because freedom alone can be a terrible waste or even destructive if not used for an elevated purpose.
To capsulize the concept. Tagore also said “Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree.” The Torah is like the earth that nourishes and guides our body and soul to help us live a life of spiritual meaning and growth.
May we use the holiday of freedom to bind ourselves to G-d’s violin, play His music and plant deep roots of purpose, joy and direction.
Have a happy and kosher Passover.
With my deepest blessings,
Rabbi Avrohom Czapnik