Most of us believe we are free. We live in a free country and generally feel free. But are we truly free? Consider this rabbinic saying from the times of the Talmud: “The only person who is truly free is the one who is seriously involved in the study of Torah.” This is a startling statement, because if it is true, then the vast majority of human beings are not free since most people are not seriously involved in the study of Torah.
The ultimate purpose of Torah study is to guide and empower us become more expansive and greater human beings. Each law and story in the Torah is an instruction of how to become a more evolved and refined human being; in short, how to become more G-d-like. From this perspective, we are free only when we are actively and consciously exercising our (free) will to grow beyond our limitations and expand our boundaries.
Although many of us feel we are growing through life experiences, one only grows from an experience when there is a conscious response to the experience. There must be a processing of the experience in order to grow from it. Whether life events motivate us to grow or we motivate ourselves to grow, we are only free when we are exercising our will to grow.
Passover is the holiday of freedom. In Egypt the Jewish people’s will to grow was imprisoned in material and spiritual darkness; forced to work without end destroyed any possibility to think or to grow proactively.
Today, we too are imprisoned and enslaved by our own narrow routines—work, relax, eat, sleep, survive day after day. We are slaves in our own modern Egypt (the Hebrew word for Egypt means “the narrow place.”). Like the Jews in Egypt, we too have little or no time to contemplate the meaning of our lives, let alone create a vision and a plan for achieving greatness. Our will to grow is enslaved and we are in truth not free at all.
Passover is the time to liberate our will to grow by envisioning our potential for greatness and making a plan to actualize it. How do we know for sure if we’re really choosing to grow? The great sage of Vilna commented in the eighteenth century that someone who is not consciously working to improve a specific aspect of their character every day is dead. We are only alive when we are choosing to refine a specific aspect of our character. What character trait are you working on today? Here is a list of some good options to consider:
Kindness, self-respect, listening, joy, gratitude, awe, patience, reliability, clarity of life purpose, modesty, passion, self-discipline, ownership, simplicity, love, positive speech.
Freedom is in the air. It’s time to leave Egypt and expand our boundaries. May we all taste the sweetness of freedom!