04/10/2014 04:50 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2014

Can You Educate to Freedom?

"Education" and "freedom" may seem like somewhat contradictory concepts. In some modern societies, education is looked as an integral component -- giving people liberty, autonomy and independence through the power and informed choices that come with knowledge. However, in terms of parents educating children, education can often imply authority, discipline and restrictions rather than freedom.

This is a timely topic as the main objective of the Seder, the first night of Passover, is to educate to freedom. Grandparents, parents and children gather to tell the story of going out of Egypt. We eat Matza, unleveled bread, to commemorate the suffering and affliction, as well as Maror, bitter herbs, to taste and feel the bitterness of slavery. This annual history lesson certainly doesn't sound, feel or taste like freedom. It feels particularly painful because you need to go through this lengthy story before finally getting to the festival meal. So how does the first night of Passover educate to freedom?

The book of Exodus narrates 3,000-year-old events. Immediately after fleeing Rameses, Pharaoh's pyramidal capital, and crossing the Egyptian border, one of Moses' first instructions to the freed Hebrews is, "When God will bring you into the Land... You shall tell your son on that day: It is for this that God did for me when I came out of Egypt." (Exodus 13, 5-8)

Educating by telling the new generation -- not just an academic history lesson, but our story that we leave again each year -- is the main priority of the New Hebrew nation. The famous medieval commentator Rashi (Exodus, 13-8) further explains, "It is in order that I follow His commandments that God took me out of Egypt." The traditional thinking is that I commemorate the history by following His commandments, such as eating the unleveled bread and the bitter herbs, however Rashi reverses the logical order: God took me out of Egypt in order that I follow His commandments. In other words, the history is only a means to a higher purpose: "to bring you, my son, to follow His commandments." The purpose is actually you, my son, and your behavior. The first message from Moses, right after achieving freedom, is that man is not a mere subject to history, but man's behavior actually shapes history.

This is true freedom: Our ability to shape reality. We have the power to initiate, create and change reality rather than only react and survive it. How can we all educate our children to true freedom? Teach them not to look at reality as defining their acts but to look at their acts as defining reality.
It is an education of responsibility. Each person can -- through his/her behavior -- change the world around them and make it a better place by following His commandments. It's up to you, the parents teaching this primal education to the next generation, the future leaders of modern society, to instill this responsibility. That's education to freedom; that's the message of the Seder.