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A Toast to Freedom


...Zeman cheiruteinu - the season of our freedom...

The Freedom to Passover

Freedom is commonly perceived as the removal of all external constraints on a person’s development and self-expression. Freedom is the natural state of man, this line of reasoning implies; free him of all outside forces that limit and inhibit him, and you have a free human being. Passover embodies a far more ambitious freedom.

The Exodus was but the first step of a seven-week journey, a forty-nine step climb in the conquest and transcendence of self that culminated in our receiving the Torah on the festival of Shavuot.

Nor does Shavuot represent the final realization of freedom: at Sinai, we were granted the potential and challenge to attain yet a deeper dimension of liberty and self-transcendence. Thus Shavuot is the only festival that has no calendar date— the Torah designates it not as a certain day of a certain month (as it does all other festivals) but as the day that follows a seven-week count from the festival of Passover. This is to emphasize that Shavuot is an outgrowth of Passover—that the significance of the Exodus came to light only on the day we stood at Sinai.

What is the significance of this liberating "service"? It means that man, no matter how free of external constraints, is a finite creature, ever subject to the limits of his own nature and character. That to attain true freedom he must therefore transcend his humanity—his emotional, intellectual, even spiritual self—and access the "spark of G‑dliness" that is his infinite, supra-human self.

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When pressed to define this most basic human need and aspiration, we usually find ourselves explaining what freedom is not. Freedom is not slavery, it is not confinement, it is not inhibition. But is that all there is to freedom—the absence of subjugation? Or is there a positive dynamic to the state of freedom?

The hebrew word for "egypt," means "boundaries"; and the endeavor to free ourselves from yesterday’s boundaries is a perpetual one. For freedom is more than the drive to escape foreign and negative inhibitors, because no matter how free of them we are, we remain defined by the boundaries of self and self-definition. Freedom is the incessant drive to "Passover" these boundaries, to draw on our divine, infinite potential to constantly reach beyond what we are.

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Tzvi Freeman March 31, 2008

Re: individuality Your assumption is that the divine spark expresses itself homogeneously in all people. Perhaps the opposite is true: That which makes each of us unique and gives us purpose is the divine spark within us.

Our outer personality--that is how we adapt to our society, environment, upbringing, etc. Within all that lies a divine purpose--how we are meant to impact that society, environment and personality.

Yes, G_d is one. But--as the Maharal of Prague writes--from true oneness comes the ultimate diversity, just as from a simple point of zero dimensions an infinite number of lines may be drawn through infinite dimensions. Reply

Bill Markstein March 30, 2008

individuality if true freedom is defined by discovering the divine spark and shedding away our emotional and intellectual self, then in what way is each person unique from one another? how do we freely express our individuality in a divine way? didn't G-d create us differently for a purpose? Reply

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