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The First Mitzvah:  Exodus Lessons in Freedom Part II

01/29/2023 05:20:20 PM



The Exodus story isn’t just an epic saga.  It’s an instruction manual on how to be free.  The word in Hebrew for Freedom, Cherut, חרות isn’t about being rid of obligations and responsibility.  That’s not what freedom means to us.  

Freedom is the ability to matter.  A slave is no more than an appendage of the “master.”  To be free means to do for yourself.  Being free FROM slavery is being free TO be yourself.  And how are you yourself?  How do you be yourself?  Through your thoughts, speech and actions.  

So often though, our thoughts, speech and actions are reflex.  We are endlessly put upon by our circumstances, forced to respond to the needs of the moment.  Quick!  Decide what to do with the next ten minutes between one obligation and the next, one to-do list and the next!  That is not freedom.  That is not being yourself.  


What do you think is the very first Mitzvah given to the Jewish people?  We might think it’s some sort of religious obligation: pray!  Give tzedaka!  Light the Shabbat candles!  Make a nice blintz!  The answer is none of these.  Here is how the Torah puts it:

G-d said to Moses and Aaron in the Land of Egypt: Speak to the Israelite People and say to them: Establish this New Moon as the first month, the beginning of the months of the year. 

In other words, make your own time.  Establish your own calendar. The Egyptian calendar, the calendar of the oppressors, is a solar calendar.  The tyranny of the sun-god is a fixed year that goes round and round, labor to labor, season to season.  

So G-d tells us to reject it.  Instead, go by the moon.  The moon waxes and wanes, sometimes full, sometimes dark.  Varying and flexible and changing.  That is your calendar.  


Time is the most precious commodity.  The ability to set our own schedule, make our own priorities, live life in accordance with our own rhythms and hearts, that is the prerequisite for freedom. 

To completely own  your own calendar is impossible.  There are always externals needs and impositions.  But if we can wrest just a few moments each day from the unforgiving hours, then we have achieved a great victory.  We have created space for our freedom. 

Make this a goal: create and own your own schedule, at least in part.  Make time for your own sacred soul, whether daily or weekly.  Not “down time”  Time to relax and catch a show, rest- that is just as needful to your organism as eating.  Self time is not that.   When you are able to claim even a few minutes as your own domain in time- then you will have taken the first step to Cherut, to freedom. 

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784