Exodus 12:21-12:51, Numbers 28:16-28:25
As we approach the holiday of Pesach, I would like to draw your attention to one of the holiday’s most powerful messages.
The holiday of Pesach is also referred to as the Season of Our Liberations. This is a reference to our exodus from Egypt, where the entire Jewish nation was enslaved to a brutal kingdom. On Pesach we celebrate the liberation from the physical bondage in Egypt.
Today, although our slavery ended with our ancestors some 3,000 years ago, Pesach is still celebrated by millions of Jews around the world. Why is this so relevant that we as a people commemorate this millenniums later?
The question is only intensified by the next major event for the nascent Jewish nation. Soon after the Jews were liberated, at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Jewish people received a new set of restrictions. Do this, don’t do that. Eat this, don’t eat that — 613 times over! Was our freedom from Egypt only exchanged for a newer version of slavery?
In order to understand this, we must first define what freedom really means. You see, freedom is not a state where every individual does as they desire. A world where each one does as they please, or as they deem necessary, is a world where chaos reigns, not freedom. True freedom is the ability to play by the rules. True freedom is the reality where each person has an equal opportunity to learn the rules of life and play by them. For in the absence of rules we are simply left with lawlessness, the adversary of freedom.
We live in a world where sometimes it seems that chaos reigns. A world where we thirst for the taste of true freedom. Freedom from the stresses of life, freedom from the fears of insecurity, freedom from our own self-imposed limitations. We yearn to be free to pursue our life’s dreams without anyone telling us that we cannot.
When the Jewish people found themselves in slavery, these realities were unattainable. They were slaves to a lawless dictator. They were controlled by others who had no understanding of the rules of life. The Jewish people were unable to learn and play by the rules of life.
But what are the rules of life and who wrote them?
Who then is a better candidate to write the rules of life, than He who created life. Who understands the structure of the world, and what keeps it ticking, better than He who caused it to be? Who can give us the instructions to maximize our potential better than He who encompasses all potential?
When G-d Almighty took us out of Egypt He Himself gave us the rule book to life. It was G-d who appeared to the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai and told us, “I am choosing you as my people, to be my messengers in the world.” He gave us His holy Torah, the blueprints by which He created the world. In it He placed His infinite wisdom, teaching us how to live a life of meaning. In it, He gave us the instructions how to operate the machines that He created, the world that we live in and the body that He loaned us. And only when we operate these gifts correctly will all their functions be maximized.
This is how G-d Almighty gave us the gift of freedom over 3,000 years ago. Freedom to understand why we were placed here in this world and what to do while we are here.
This is why we celebrate our freedom still today. The freedom that G-d granted us then is ours to hold onto now. If we ignore the freedom of the rules that we were given, we will be bound to lawlessness and slaves to chaos. Our limitations will be our master, and we will not have the ability to overcome any obstacles. In contrast, if we choose to live by His rules, we will understand the freedom that He granted us. We will realize our full potential and be the master of our limitations. No obstacle will be too large to overcome.
During this holiday of Pesach, the Season of Our Liberation, let us all seize the opportunity to learn, understand and appreciate this timeless gift that G-d has given us. Let us not waste the everlasting gift of freedom. By realizing this message, we will collectively create a world that G-d can call home. A world where good outshines darkness. And we will merit the ultimate redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach, may it happen speedily.
Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld is executive director of Yeshiva Schools and of Chabad of Western Pennsylvania. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.