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Pesach 5775 — 04/01/2015

Pesach 5775 — 04/01/2015

Pesach is z’man cheruteinu, the season of our freedom.  The question arises every year then – what is freedom?  Rav Kook suggests that:

True freedom means the opportunity to grow and develop according to one’s inner nature and natural gifts, without interference or coercion from outside influences.

This is why, Rav Kook explains, matzah is a symbol of freedom – it’s simply flour and water without foreign influences like leavening.  He explains further that when the Israelites left Egypt, they were finally free of the influences of Egyptian culture, and when they arrived at Mt. Sinai and received the Torah, they had, as it were, a holy character imprinted on the national soul.  The rest of Jewish history is the progressive development and expansion of this holiness, so that it can be expressed in the world.

After wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, during which time we presumably matured as Gd’s holy people, we finally got the opportunity to develop according to our inner nature, in our own Land.  This Land is the one most conducive to our development and the fulfillment of the mission with which Gd has entrusted us.  Unfortunately, we weren’t up to the task, and got sidetracked into valuing the physical world and its pleasures as an end in themselves, rather than as a tool, or resource, to be used to fulfill our mission.  When there was enough of a disconnect between the nature of the Land and our behavior, we lost the Land and with it our freedom from the outside influences of other, and in my opinion cruder, cultures.  Even now, with our own state re-established in the Land, one can hardly say that we are developing our own inner nature without outside influences.  This is partly because of the necessity to defend ourselves, but it is also part and parcel of the baggage that we have brought with us from the Diaspora.

I think we can also take Rav Kook’s words on a deeper level.  The true inner nature of every one of us is the divine, infinite soul.  That is what we truly are.  The body that we inhabit is a vehicle to allow our inner nature to express itself in the material world, which is intrinsically foreign to it.  The difficulty that we run into is that instead of the soul’s being in charge and driving the body to fulfill its spiritual goals, the body gets the bit between its teeth, so to speak, and winds up controlling the soul, driving it to fulfill the body’s physical cravings.  This is the ultimate slavery – slavery of the infinite to the finite!  The finite is the ultimate “outside influence” obstructing the infinite from expressing itself according to its own nature.

Fortunately, there is a solution.  When Torah describes the Tablets Moshe Rabbeinu brought down from Mt. Sinai, it says they were engraved (charut) on both sides.  The Rabbis teach, “Don’t read it as charut, but cherut (freedom), for there is no freedom other than Torah.”  Torah is the blueprint of creation, and it is also the blueprint for the way we can, and should, live our lives.  When we align our lives and our thinking with Torah, we are aligning ourselves with the infinite basis of all creation, which is also the infinite basis of our own life.  As we do this, little by little we allow our souls to take back control from our bodies, and we experience true freedom, the freedom to express our inner, spiritual nature in the outer world, unencumbered by dysfunctional structures that twist and distort that expression.

Pesach is a time when we have many, many mitzvot to fulfill.  They are all focused around the theme of freedom.  This year, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on each of them, and on the meaning of freedom, and dedicate ourselves to a year of progress towards real freedom.

Chag Kasher v’same’ach!