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Leaving Egypt: The Ongoing Journey of Freedom

01/21/2023 10:06:30 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


The story that we tell over and over again, every day, through our prayers and sacred texts, isn't about religion per se.  The Stand at Sinai when we all heard G-d's Ten Commandments, the basis of the Mitzvot, practices, customs and rules of Jewish life is certainly a headliner of our ethos. 

But it's not the primal, fundamental meaning of Jewish life.  Neither is Jewish unity and solidarity, which are the great themes of Genesis.  Neither is it G-d's creation of humanity in the divine image.  These are all powerful, transformative, beautiful and compelling value concepts that infuse Jewish life.  

But the greatest story, the text most often evoked in our prayers and sacred history is the Exodus from Egypt; the emergence from slavery to freedom.  So great, so transformative is this moment that it is equated to the very creation of the world.  

What does it mean to be free in Jewish thought?  Is freedom only a negative (to be free from something) or is it also a positive (to free to do or become)? What are the prerequisites for freedom?  Why is G-d involved? Can freedom only come from G-d?  In what sense can freedom be said to be an obligation?  Are there levels or degrees of freedom?  Over the next three weeks we will be exploring different aspects of this supreme Torah teaching.  But for this week, this parsha, the message is clear: the supreme value of Jewish life is freedom.  And this freedom is the inalienable gift of G-d.  

Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784