Before the exodus from Egypt, G‑d told Moses that He would deliver the final blow to the Egyptians, the Plague of the Firstborn, exactly at midnight. The Zohar explains that midnight also became the defining moment of freedom for the Jews. Although they did not physically leave until the next morning, they became spiritually free exactly at the moment of midnight.

Analysis of this concept highlights an interesting difficulty. Time is constantly moving. An exact moment of midnight doesn't actually exist. Any moment of time, no matter how small, belongs either to the first or second half of the night. As soon the first half of the night ends, the second one has already begun. There is no moment that exists in between the two.

The mystics explain that the two halves of the night represent the two primary forces of our personality—"chesed" and "gevurah." Chesed is the power of giving, love and closeness. Gevurah is the power of restraint, respect and discipline. The first half of the night represents gevurah, the second, chesed. Light is associated with giving, chesed, and darkness with withdrawal, gevurah. The first half of the night moves away from light, the second towards day.

To be free means to live in the world of midnightSuccess, happiness and spiritual growth require a combination of both. There is a time to give and time to hold back, a time to submit and a time to be assertive, a time to be flexible and a time to be strict.

This is not easy, as most people are disposed either to one or the other. Every person is born with a specific personality and set of character traits that are hard to change. For each of us there are times when our personality will work well and there are those circumstances when we must be ready to do things that do not come naturally to us.

True freedom means that we are not trapped or locked into our natural personality. Freedom means that we can change and we can choose when to use chesed and when to use gevurah. True freedom means that we are not dictated to by our instincts, but are able to use a higher code of conduct to make decisions and control the direction of our emotions.

Freedom was given to us at midnight, a moment that does not exist in the natural world. Midnight represents the gift of transcendence—a Divine gift that gives us the power to rise above our natural instincts. To be free means to live in the world of midnight; to know how to choose when to use chesed and when to use gevurah, based on Divine direction.