You're standing in the center of a large arena. Tiers of spectators rise steeply on all sides. Directly in front of you are two massive doors (thick oak planks, huge iron fittings). Behind one door is life and bliss; behind the other awaits excruciating death.

The princess up in the grandstand catches your eye and is about to indicate the door leading to life and bliss (yes, folks, now it can be revealed: she's decided to transcend her selfish feelings and save his life). But at that moment Mr. Philosopher appears at her elbow.

"No!" he hisses into her ear. "Stop! Don't you want your heart's beloved to be free?"

"Of course I do. That's why I want to tell him..."

"If you tell him, you'll deprive him of his freedom! Right now, he's free to choose whichever door he wants. But if you tell him which door to open, he'll cease to have any choice in the matter — he'll have to open that door..."

Freedom of choice is the most precious of gifts granted to man. It is also one of the most misunderstood.

As commonly perceived, freedom of choice means an uncompelled choice between two (or more) options. If the choice is in any way influenced in either direction by anything outside of the chooser, it's not truly free.

According to this line of thinking, anyone telling you what to do is impinging on your freedom. And if the person telling you what to do is doing so from a position of authority (as a parent, teacher, government official, etc.), your acceptance of such authority means that you are relinquishing your freedom of choice.

But the only way that you can be faced with a truly equal choice between two possibilities is if your choice is being made in absolute ignorance. The moment you know anything about the nature of what lies behind those two possibilities, your choice is going to be influenced by that knowledge.

Ignorance, however, is not freedom — it's the very opposite of freedom. Placing a person in front of two blank doors while depriving him of the knowledge of what lies in store for him behind them does not make the person free — it enslaves him to the cruel caprice of chance.

By granting the man in the arena the knowledge of what lies behind each of the doors, we grant him the ultimate freedom to choose: not to choose between two possibilities (we've just deprived him of that choice), but to choose the one possibility which is most consistent with his deepest, truest desire.

The Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt has come to represent humanity's inextinguishable striving for freedom. The image of Moses standing before Pharaoh demanding "Let my people go!" has inspired campaigners for human freedom and equality throughout the generations.

Look up that scene in your bible, however, and you'll discover some interesting details. Moses does not say "Let my people go!"; he demands in the name of G‑d, "Let My people go, so that they may serve Me." G‑d, revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush, does not say to Moses, "Get them out of totalitarian Egypt and bring them to Athens to found the world's first democracy "; He says: "Bring them to Mount Sinai, where I'm going to give them lots and lots of commandments."

So why do we celebrate the anniversary of the Exodus as our annual "Festival of Freedom"?

Because at Sinai we became truly free. At Sinai we were granted the gift of knowledge: we were told which pathways and actions lead to the fulfillment of our soul's most deep-seated desires, and which pathways and actions are contrary to them.

Having glimpsed these truths at Sinai, we are definitely more inclined toward the right door than to the wrong. We have fewer choices, but far more freedom.