Freedom. Few nations or people can understand what freedom means more than one that has been denied it. Freedom is both a physical reality and a spiritual one. Psychologists have all sorts of names for that long-term damages done to the psyche of those who have been enslaved. The Jewish people crave freedom and yet after centuries of not being free, often fail to full embrace today’s physical realities.
As a people, we were enslaved for hundreds of years in Egypt. For hundreds of years, we worked without pay, were beaten without cause. In breaking free and returning home, the Jewish people was reborn. We returned to our land and made it a nation. We lived in exile and returned; exile and returned; exile and returned.
Today, we are home. Today, we are free. Ironically, the problem is now a mental disorder more than a physical one. Recently, the last Jews of Yemen came home to Israel. On the ground, there are virtually no Jews in dozens of countries in the world and once again, the single largest concentration of Jews anywhere in the world is in our homeland. Here, we fight to survive and have made our mark in countless industries.
In defense, Israeli products are precise and technologically advanced. In medicine, in cyber security, Israeli developers lead the way in innovation. Apparently, the biggest problem that Israel has is the threat that comes from within our society and within our people. After countless centuries, we are free but have yet to really understand what freedom means.
Before the holiday of Passover, we clean our homes to remove all manner of leavened products. What we fail to do, sadly, is perhaps the most important part of all. We are busy cleaning our refrigerators, scrubbing our ovens, and emptying our cabinets, but we forget the spiritual side that must be cleansed as well.
Spiritually, what must be removed is the ghetto mentality that remains in our leaders and in too many Jewish communities around the world. Freedom was hard won. We fought to get out of Egypt; we fought to return to our homeland. But we are here now, home now.
This Passover, as you clean your homes, open your hearts to the gift of freedom that was God’s greatest gift to the Jewish people. Others might say it is the Torah, the laws and the way of life that we lead. But first God freed us from slavery. Then he brought us to Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. First came freedom because only a free people can choose to honor and keep the laws given to us.
We’ve carried those laws with us for two thousand years when we were not free. Sometimes we lit Shabbat candles in basements; put on tefillin in haste to avoid being caught. The mezuzot that proudly adorn our door posts were sometimes not posted.
Now, we are free and yet there are still chains that prevent us from attaining the ultimate freedom. Sadly, the chains are mainly in our minds while our souls continue to seek release.
Be Free this Passover
This Passover, as you sing, “Next Year in Jerusalem” – mean it. Consider it. Plan for it. This Passover, as you thank God for releasing us from slavery, release yourself from the chains that still bind you. Finally, stop thinking about what others thing; stop trying to please the world. Ultimately, it is time to break the last chains that hold us. These are the chains that have us worrying about what others think of us.
Israel will survive; more, Israel will continue to prosper. We are strong. We are proud. Most of all, we are free. For the first time in 2,000 years, we are free. Join us in our freedom. Let the ghetto go and with it, let the ghetto mentality go.