The Passover story can sound like an ideal bondage-to-freedom narrative that even the Old Left couldn’t have come up with: A minority group is enslaved by a tyrannical demigod. The identity of the slaves is so enmeshed into their slavery that with every evil machination that the ruler comes up with, the people accept this as their fate and reality. They are in the darkest place in human history, having no control over their time, their bodies, their women, their children. Then, one day, the people dare The people accept this as their fate and realityto stand up to the tyrant and ask to leave the land, just for a few days. Of course, the tyrant refuses. The enslaved people grind on, but something has changed. Their asking for something outside of slavery begins to sprout the seeds of their liberation. Articulating that there could be life outside of their horrible existence, they have acknowledged the possibility of another reality. Hence, their liberation from human bondage commences. As the story goes, eventually this minority succeeds in escaping—with their masters’ goods and god-sheep. They are chased by their master and his first-rate army, only to . . . submit to another master! (This is where the liberal ideal ends.)

On the surface, it seems like this minority, the Jews, traded one master for another. They were done with Pharaoh, and were now under G‑d’s rule. The only difference: one god they could see, while one was incorporeal.

Without ever having truly experienced a sense of a Higher Power and what a soul-satisfying experience it is—the only antidote to existentialism—the Passover narrative sounds pretty much like a historical accounting of a people with its real freedom dashed by dogmatic religion.

But what happened to the Jewish people at the moment they began to talk to Pharaoh was the planting of the seed of faith in something higher. Not everyone came along for the ride. Some were skeptical of an omniscient G‑d, when everything in the pagan world was very concrete. Some held onto their skepticism, and others let go of it the night of the Exodus. Others held on tight until the crossing of the Red Sea. And still others held on—and continue to hold on—until today.

Actually, worshipping G‑d can be the most liberating experience. It allows us to rise beyond the guilt and anger that keeps us from living up to our potential. Recognizing our potential and creative powers takes on a whole other dimension when it is understood as a microcosm of a much larger Creator and power. It endows us with self-love, acceptance and a desire to act. It endows our creativity with spiritual connection and meaning. It adds another, deeper, dimension to our lives. This was something that the enslaved Jews started tasting with Moses’ appearance in the bowels of Egypt.

The challenge was: would the belief in a Higher Power “work” when the Jews were not enslaved? Could it withstand the temptations of the free world? The development of thought and civilization? That was the test the Jews would struggle with once they accepted that the world was not run by humans or demigods, but rather by Something and Someone much, much greater than human intellect had the capacity to comprehend.Would the belief in a Higher Power “work” when the Jews were not enslaved?

We still face the same challenge today.

G‑d is just as much out of fashion, contested, forgotten about today as He was then. That is, unless you’ve allowed yourself to experience and accept Him against all human-manufactured morality and law.

So, what is the true liberation story?

Unlike our traditional understanding, it did not start only in Egypt. It originated with creation, and therefore begins with each newly created human being, with choice. When we are able to choose, we are free. Understanding that G‑d created the world and left us to choose how to act and how to perceive and understand life is the most liberating experience. When we can make choices, we can liberate ourselves. Liberation is constantly available within ourselves; we just need to access it. This was the gift that Moses brought to the Jewish people in Egypt. They had been unaware of any ability to choose. They had been limited by the myopic perspective of this world. With an understanding that G‑d gave us the power of choice so that we can live for a higher purpose within a higher design, the Jewish tribes began to understand true freedom. This collective experience paved the way to ultimately becoming G‑d’s nation, an ethical and moral people who were free to choose, even in the ancient pagan world.

This message especially resonates for us during the time of Passover, when our ancestors’ yearnings to recognize something higher solidified a reality for us today.

Passover is a time of liberation potential.

We start the year on Rosh Hashanah expressing our soul’s will and desire to be the best we can be, to match the ideal self that is waiting to be fulfilled. The will is connected to the inner essence of the soul—it is unlimited, it is pure. But then the year happens. It is filled with complications, idiosyncrasies, mistakes, limitations, that in one word can be summed up as “me”—a lofty soul, but alas, a mortal as well.

When Passover arrives, the biblical New Year, we get a second chance to actualize our Rosh Hashanah will. Passover retells the Exodus narrative and how our ancestors were slaves. We sit at the Seder and speak about the liberation of our people through G‑d’s hands.

There is no true liberation without a structure, and if we would have just been freed from human bondage, we would have soon found ourselves tied to another form of human bondage—ego, materialism, or some other political tyrant of that time. The true gift of Passover is that G‑d liberated us from human bondage and elevated us to spiritual worship. Living a life without a Higher Power that endows us with the ability to tap into our will, our origin, we would always be enslaved to something or another: time, money, public opinion. G‑d took us out of Egypt in order for us to live a higher life, looking toward a Higher Power and simultaneously looking to be a moral and ethical light for all the human beings we share the earth with.There is no true liberation without a structure

Passover is that time of year when we get to ask ourselves more than just four questions. Questions such as “Who am I?” “Where have I come from?” “Where am I going?” The questions that reside in our consciousness and that we listen to only in a moment of rest, or turbulence.

On Passover we bring those questions to the surface. In the Jewish tradition, we have collective ancient answers. But the Seder is also a deep time to be able to answer those questions for ourselves, individually. It is a time when we get to seek out that with which we had so fervently identified in Elul. It is a time to measure and take stock: Have we seen that inner will shape our lives? Has that will been our guide? Have we liberated ourselves from pretension and posture, or are we still enslaved to others? Have we been able to cherish our soul’s expression, bringing light to others?

While we contemplate our individual liberation, we also think about enabling others’ liberation. We may not be able to actually assist someone with their physical or financial liberation, but we may be able to help redeem someone from their spiritual abyss or mental anguish.

Redemption is a recovery. What do we individually recover on Passover? Our inner will from Rosh Hashanah. What did the Jewish people recover in Egypt? Their original will to choose freely to worship G‑d, which had been lost in the generations and centuries of worshipping another human being. They recovered their collective will to live by G‑d’s will. The natural next step was to receive the Torah, so that they had a guide by which to live this higher life—and to teach the world what living freely truly means.