Everyone wants freedom. It is a basic human need. To some extent, even animals seek freedom and show signs of unhappiness if they do not have it.

However, the question of what freedom consists of has not been clearly answered. Many people spend their lives chasing something they call freedom. But at some point they may well turn round and say they have been deceived.

Our Parshah gives us a insight into the nature of our freedom. Perhaps it challenges some of our assumptions.

We all know that a central theme in Judaism is the fact that we escaped from the slavery of Egypt —and reached "freedom." But in this week's Parshah G‑d says about us: "The Jewish people are My servants. They are My servants because I brought them out of the land of Egypt..." (Leviticus 25:55).

Are we free, or are we servants? The Hebrew text could even be translated to read not "servants" but "slaves." Is this our destiny? To be slaves?

From the point of view of the Torah, our greatest freedom is the fact that we are servants or even "slaves" of G‑d. G‑d is eternal, boundless: totally beyond limitations. G‑d is infinite freedom. The closer our connection and bond with G‑d, the closer we are to true freedom. It may sound paradoxical, but if we can become total "slaves" to G‑d, utterly submitting ourselves to His will in every detail of our lives — then we will be totally and utterly free.

This point is in fact made in the Torah itself. The reason why it states that we are servants (or "slaves") of G‑d is in order to explain that we may not be permanent slaves to any human being. Indeed, there is a positive commandment to redeem any Jew who might be in a position of abject servitude or slavery. This is because, by his or her very nature, the Jew is bonded as a servant to G‑d. In relation to all humanity and all existence the path of the Jew is one of unlimited freedom.

"Who Has Not Made Me a Slave"

In 1941, 30,000 Jews were herded by the Nazis into the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania. There they were treated like slaves, and worse. They were beaten, tortured, murdered. Yet at the same time, some aspects of life went on. In the synagogues there were morning prayers.

One morning, the man leading the prayers came to the blessing, "Blessed are You, G‑d.... Who has not made me a slave." He cried out in anguish: "How can I say this prayer? We are slaves!" His words gripped the hearts of the other worshippers. When we are literally slaves to the Germans, how indeed can we thank G‑d for not making us slaves?

The question was addressed to a rabbi in the ghetto, and his answer has been preserved. We should say the prayer, because spiritually the Jew is always free. Our physical bodies may be enslaved, but not our souls. Nothing can enslave the soul, the essence of the Jew.1