March 31, 2013 3:08 PM
Here is the puzzling paradox of freedom. Freedom, political, psychological or spiritual, only exists within the "confines" of community. When we teach our children that they are free citizens in a freedom-loving society, we are not teaching them anarchy but rather social cooperation. We are teaching them to give up some freedoms so that all people can enjoy and maximize their freedom too. We give up a freedom during the airport security check to allow a collective freedom from mayhem. Hence the paradox.
This paradox is present when the people of Israel leave Egypt to start a new society based on a very strict set of rules. Albeit rules that guarantee justice for all. According to the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites are released from servitude to Egyptian task-masters in order to become literally "servants of God". Which God? Not the "bible belt" reward-and-punishment one, but the original Hebrew Bible God who demands social justice.
As Jews, we continue to follow a three millennia old calling to exercise justice in community. Fairness-equity-and-liberation-for-all is the namesake of the God who liberated us. LIBERATION liberated us, one may say. This God continues to liberate us now, through our act of building caring community, small or large, Jewish or otherwise. Thank you for your part in helping to build our precious learning and celebration community, Hebrew Learning Circles.
On Passover night we perpetuate this ancient wisdom as we tell the story to the young-ones before they wildly proceed to tear down the house in search of the Afikoman. "We earn freedom together, in family, in community, in society when we care", is the message. Like Maror (bitter Herb) dipped in Haroset (sweet fruit and nut mix), true freedom, paradoxically, is only gained in the tensions and compromise of being together.
Rabbi Reuben Modek
March 8, 2012 2:51 PM
April 6, 2009 11:48 AM
A few weeks before Passover during the end of the second world war a Hasidic Jewish refugee in Russia chanced upon a then scarce batch of Shemurah Matzah flour, a type of Matzah flour that would uniquely qualify for the strictest standards of Passover observance.
Excited by his amazingly good fortune, the Hasid rushed to bake as many Matzas as he could squeeze out of the limited amount of flour. Once done, the Hasid happily sent messages to all the strictly observant Rabbis in his area inviting them to pick up the precious holiday commodity. However, he also stipulated that due to short supply he could only provide three pieces to each Rabbi on a first come first serve basis.
In no time whatsoever representatives from the different communities arrived at our Hasid’s residence to collect the generous gift of Shemurah Matzah. One of the messengers, though, displayed a particularly brash attitude. He fiercely proclaimed that three Matzahs were not enough and that his Rabbi had insisted on receiving no less than six pieces of Matzah in spite of the original stipulation. After quite some arguing the Hasid abided by the unusual request and begrudgingly made the exception.
The day before Passover had arrived and lo and behold at our Hasid’s doorstep for the second time appeared the difficult messenger. “I came to explain why I insisted on receiving six Matzahs” he stated. While not entirely happy about the man’s repeat visit, the Hasid asked his visitor to “please go on”. “Do you have any Shemurah Matzah for yourself?” asked the visitor. “No” replied the Hasid. “The supply was too short and the need too great. I did not keep any for myself”. “My Rebbe new that you wouldn’t, and asked me to secure an extra three pieces for you” said the messenger as he pulled out three Matzahs from his pack and handed them back to the Hasid. “That is why I had to insist on six Matzahs. On behalf of myself and my Rebbe I wish you a sweet and happy Passover”.
How do we become truly liberated? Not only by reminding ourselves of our collective experience of slavery through the observances of Passover. Not only by providing for those less privileged than ourselves during Passover. But also by acknowledging and caring for those who go out of their way to care for us and for others around us. May we all merit liberation of body and spirit as we turn our holiday observances into opportunities for true caring and heart felt connecting.