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Passover- The Two Ways out of Slavery

04/13/2022 01:03:57 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


Every year we are told to see ourselves as being freed from Egypt.  The Baal Shem Tov said that the minute we stop leaving Egypt, we are back there again- that is how pernicious and "sticky" slavery is.

The way out is, according to the Torah, to head out to the simplicity and purity of the desert. To travel light.  To disencumber ourselves of baggage and go unrelentingly toward Sinai.  Toward our essence, our truth, our real selves and there to encounter the Real Self of the Universe.  So the Seder meal is just a sort of expansion of what we are supposed to do every day.  Matzah is the minimalists bagette.  It is the bread of the wayfarer, the bread of freedom, demanding that we remember that all of those things we believe we simply must have, we in fact, don't need and that the mistaken belief that we do need them is the superhighway to slavery.  

But there is another way out of slavery.   A much easier way.  The Torah tells us that a slave- any slave- must be freed after seven years.  The G-d who freed us means for all to be free and any servitude must be limited and the liberated slave provided for.  

But what if the slave likes his or her place?  What if they come to love the household of their bondage, their subservience, the lack of responsibility for their lives?   After all, it's so much easier to just forego freedom and be cared for in exchange for serving another, whether that other is a person or one' own appetites, ego and desires.  What about the slave who wishes to stay a slave?

The Torah has a remedy.  That slave is taken to the doorway of the household- the same doorway that the Israelites marked with the blood of redemption- and declares his or her love for slavery.  Then their ear- the ear that refused to hear the call to freedom- is pierced with an awl and the slave remains.  To them, they are no longer slaves because they have renounced freedom itself.  Easy Peasy.

And tragic.  

The Torah asks us each Passover to take a hard look at ourselves and to ask ourselves if we are truly free or if we have simply given up our freedom.  When we open the door, hold up the Matzah and declare, "now e are slaves, next year, may we be free, now we are here, next year, may we be in the Land of Israel", we are asked to experience just for a moment the profound discomfort of the challenge.  Why do we open the door?  Ostensibly to invite others in need in.  But perhaps to remind ourselves that for as long as we are alive, the door is open.  Henry David Thoreau says that the most of us are in bondage to ourselves one or another.  Let us resolve this Pesach to take that open door seriously, to remind ourselves that, whatever slaveries we may have accepted, the door is open.

Chag Sameach!


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784