The holiday of Passover is upon us! Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement 3327 years ago. After many decades of backbreaking labor, through Divine intervention the Israelites were freed. They left Egypt and made their way to Mt. Sinai, where the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, and then continued to the Promised Land.
The story of the Exodus, although thousands of years old, is still relevant today. As we declare in the Haggadah: "In every generation a person should see himself as though he personally has been liberated from Mitzrayim [Egypt]."
How does one go free if he or she is not enslaved?
Modern Day Exodus
When we talk of slavery and freedom there is a lot more than what meets the eye.
We are blessed to live in a country that was founded on the principles of "all men are created equal" and the universal rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." However, one may live in a free country and still be enslaved. We can be enslaved to our urges, mood swings, phobias and, yes, even our smartphones.
True freedom has less to do with oppressive external forces and more to do with destructive internal forces. Personal imprisonment is often the most overlooked and the most difficult to overcome.
On Passover, we seek to relive the Exodus and break free from our own personal enslavement. A good starting point for personal freedom is the mind. The mind has the ability to set one free or to be the source of one's imprisonment. Establishing supremacy of mind over feelings is a good way to begin your personal Exodus.
This Passover, let's choose freedom. Leaving your smartphone at home for a day or two may be a good way begin the process of self-liberation.
Freeing oneself from oppression, either internal or external, is not enough. Freedom is not a "one size fits all" solution. An animal's requirements for freedom are not sufficient for a human being. A cow grazing in the fields with ample sustenance and room to roam will feel free and happy. For a human being, a life of grazing in the fields is torture.
In order for us to experience true freedom, we need to utilize all our talents and capabilities productively. True freedom is experienced when one lives up to his or her unique potential!
Furthermore, living up to one's materialistic potential is not enough. It's our spiritual potential that needs to be harnessed. We all have a natural desire to be spiritual. We can do this by connecting to God through Torah, Mitzvoth and by showing concern and respect for others. The more we achieve spiritually, the more we can achieve.
This Passover, let's leave our comfort zone and achieve the unique potential that we all possess.
As we commemorate our freedom from ancient Egyptian bondage, let us not forget the pervasive anti-Semitism that still exists.Consider this:
- Only seven decades after the Holocaust there is discussion as to whether Europe is safe for Jews.
- A Jewish kindergarten in Brussels has been denied insurance coverage because the risk of terrorist attack is deemed too great.
- Wearing a Kippah in Paris might elicit verbal abuse.
All of these things should demand outrage everywhere. But sadly there is no outrage and life moves on.
The above hate is alluded to in the words of the Haggadah "in every generation they rise against us to destroy us." The passage concludes "and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand."
Ultimately, the only lasting solution to anti-Semitism is to free the haters from their own enslavement to hatred. However, this may be very difficult to achieve.
This Passover, let us resolve to fight anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry wherever it may be!
This Passover, let us pray for the liberation of those who are enslaved to hatred.
This Passover, reassured by the reliability of the Holy One's protective hand, let us continue our mission of making the world a better place for all of humanity.