What is the freedom? This question has consumed me since my early teen years.
B-H, it was an interesting time in the corner of planet Earth where I used to live when I was trying to understand and experience freedom for the first time.
I didn’t find it in political independence. Although, as you see in my post about Egypt and its revolution, I still relate to the human desire to speak and express oneself freely.
I understand this craving of the masses to break out from the chains of all the “protectors of the people” who most often are protecting nothing but their bloody money--sometimes even not their own families. Dictators are all the same.
I didn’t find freedom even after the shackles of Communism fell off my wrists and the muffle over my mouth was untied. As the Janis Joplin song went, “freedom is just another word for nothing more to lose.” Once I was dreaming that maybe these guys I saw riding their Harley-Davidsons on Nevada’s Highway 50 with the wind caressing their faces and ruffling their hair know what freedom is.
I tried that too... in our family minivan though. I enjoyed it very much, but when I drove Highway 50 with the wind blowing through the window, waiving my payos, I knew already something more about freedom than those guys on their Harleys would ever know. I knew that freedom given to us from above is about much more than great space around me and blue sky above me.
Most important, I enjoyed having my family with me, my two little boys and my cute little daughter, fighting and hugging each other alternatively on the back seat of our minivan. My wife always worried what would happen next, but was always at my side.
At that time, I knew already that there is more than the starry sky above me and the moral law in my chest.
Chairus on two tablets: don’t read written, says Chazal, but rather read freedom. Freedom on the tablets.
Freedom on the tablets is different from our bechira-freedom of choice; in this freedom we may choose to rebel against the commandments of those tablets. It isn’t the freedom of refusing to believe in the G-dly character of those tablets either. It is Freedom on the tablets. Are those tablets some kind of symbol of Freedom, or perhaps there is a formula in them about how to achieve this Freedom?
It is not a big surprise that the first commandment on the tablets is asking us to be free. Anoichi Hashem Elokeichu asher chotzaisichu mi eretz mitzraim mi bays avudim. I’m the Merciful One who took you out of Egypt – the house of enslavement. Egypt, as Chazal teach us, in the very implication of the shoiresh (the root of the word), means bondage, oppression.
You are free! You are out of oppression! declares our Liberator. As a free man, you are called to do all of following on those tablets: the next nine commandments, and all that those nine represent – the Taryag Mitzvois – 613 commandments of Torah. You may do them, you still may perform those commandments, without being free, but you will lose most of its value.
It is my request from you, says HBH, that you should do what I am asking you to do, not because of any external pressure, but from your free motivation. You should hold back yourself from wrongdoing not because your environment will require it, but because you should seek in My commandments the path to even more perfect freedom – freedom of dominion over your corporeal desires and instincts.
Use that great gift which I invested in you: your Saichel – intellect. Conquer and balance the hormones flowing in your blood, through your heart, with calm and thoughtful self-restraint. Invest your time and property where you may share it with others like you. They are made in My Likeness, they represent Me; by respecting or even noticing them, you respect and recognize Me.
This is what the first commandment of the Luchos Habris (Tablets of the Covenant) seems to tell us. This is how, with great assistance from heaven, the author of these words is trying to direct his life.
We again are exiting Mitzraim, going from bondage of slavery. Let us all with Hashem’s grace understand the gift of freedom and use it wisely, to climb higher and higher; to walk in this freedom and achieve our full potential.
Kushere ve Sameach Pesach.