Time has no true measurement; a full day can pass in minutes, and a fleeting moment can remain for eternity. This summer I met David, an 8-year-old autistic child. “I’m looking for freedom!” he shouted, as we got into the car to drive home after a long day at Palo Alto’s Friendship Circle Summer Camp.

I had to pinch myself to be sure I had actually heard this declaration from the little blonde boy next to me.“You’re looking for what?” I probed. “For Freedom!”

I detected an adult-like anger in his voice, a rebellion, an urge to get up and shout, to tell the whole world that he was on the search for Freedom while we remained confined in a world of rules. Although he seemed antagonistic, I desperately wanted to understand him. David had a vision, and I could relate to him. Yes, I, too, was looking for freedom.

I too was looking for freedomDavid explained to me how to reach Freedom, via an original game he played with the letters of the ABC. Each letter served as a vehicle to take you “Home,” which represented freedom. “D” was “Drive back Home,” “L” was “Leap back Home." As we raced through the alphabet, our imaginations intensified. When I challenged him on “S,” he offered “Stop back Home,” but I thought “Soar” felt better, and he agreed.

I was jubilant. I had gotten the gist of this freedom game. I was in. I had broken the wall between my imprisoned world and David’s quest for freedom, and that was the greatest feeling ever. He didn’t like the yellow camp T-shirt he was wearing. He wanted to know “what if he simply wore nothing but pants.” That would feel like Freedom, he told me. I wasn’t so sure.

He kept mentioning “Freedom Rules,” and that’s where he really got me thinking. How can there be rules in Freedom? David, if you’re so intent on doing what you please, then how can you create specific rules that freedom-seekers are obliged to follow? That wouldn’t be freedom, my boy. That would be following Rules. That would make you like everybody else; schools, camps, workplaces.

I didn’t want to puncture his idea of freedom, but his insight and depth were far beyond his years, and it compelled me to ask, “David, how can there be Freedom Rules?” He fell silent. He didn’t jump to argue with me. No one had ever bothered to discuss Freedom with him, nor to challenge its terms, and now, it seemed, I had pointed out a critical flaw in his system.

Before long we had to part, but I am certain that David found a solution that afternoon. He was too intelligent, too sharp, to lose sight of such a significant detail.

I thought about my encounter all that night, and I know that if we meet again we won’t need to argue. You see, David is right. There are rules that bind, and rules that redeem. David is searching for the redeeming ones, and I think I’d like to join him. Indeed, I have come to realize, that with the proper adherence, ostensibly binding rules can actually be redeeming rules.

There are rules that bind, and rules that redeemYou see, G‑d gave us the Torah, our Guidebook, long before any human sought Freedom, and long before David began his quest. Consider the Shabbat experience: a binding Torah commandment perfectly crafted to redeem the human being.

With the passage of time, we could come to observe Shabbat out of habit, see only the obligatory rules, and become numb to the liberation it offers our hearts and minds. But our inner child, our eternal soul, knows the truth.

I recently discovered a memoir piece from my high-school days, vividly describing my childhood Shabbat memories:

“ . . . Friday nights became my favorite. Even in the summertime, when the days were longer, the last-minute rush before sunset on Friday was inescapable. Yet when the time came to light the candles, all at once, everything stopped. It was as if G‑d had spread a glorious warm glow upon our home.

“Sometimes, I would go out to the front veranda and watch the pale sky fill with an array of magnificent colors. The street was quiet and the trees swayed gently, their leaves dappled by the last rays of afternoon sun. A certain peace enveloped me, and I knew it was Shabbat.”

I’ve always had the Freedom Rules; I simply haven’t utilized them. OK, David, let’s make “R,” “Return back Home”! Yes, one half-hour can last a lifetime.