Saturday, 25 March 2017

Liberty - Another Gift of the Jews

The middle of the month of Nissan, according to the Jewish/Hebrew calendar, marks the start of the Holy Day of Pesach (Passover). In Hebrew, the language of Am Yisrael, it is also known as the Spring Festival.

But for many Jews, it is, first and foremost, celebrated and commemorated as the Holy Day of Liberty, the time in our history where the Yisraelites were liberated from slavery in Egypt and were on their way to becoming a Nation at Mount Sinai.

The concept of Liberty, Cherut (חרות) or Dror (דרור) in Hebrew, as practiced and applied by Am Yisrael was unheard of prior to Yetziat Mitzrayim (The Exodus from Egypt). Its magnitude was never underestimated or diminished and has been celebrated by Jews the world over for over to three millennia.

The significance of the notion was already established at the most important event in Jewish History, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The act of the Giving of the Torah is akin to the signing of a contract, a covenant, a Brit. This one is between G-d and Am Yisrael. As in any contract, both parties are first introduced. A swift review of Shemot (Exodus in its Hellenistic name) 20: 2, G-d announces: "אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים." I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt out of the House of Slavery.”

A question is begging to be asked: “Why did G-d mention the Exodus from Egypt as his achievement? Surely G-d could have introduced Himself as the Creator of the Universe, for is there a more compelling deed than creating a Universe?”

One of the answers to this very important question is linked to the concept of Liberty. The reason G-d elected to introduce Himself in that manner is because He wanted to show us humans that Liberty is analogous to the act of creation.

It is important to mention that while the concept of Liberty has become universal, the Holy Day of Pesach is reserved to Jews and Am Yisrael ONLY. That is reiterated by another, very captivating interpretation of the above verse. Rabbi Yehudah Halevi, in his book “The Kuzari,” points out that we learn a basic educational truth from this introduction. For people to accept direction from a teacher, parent, or anyone else, they must first trust that person. Trust occurs when there is a personal and beneficial relationship between the two parties. Once trust has been established, the one is able to accept direction and criticism from the other. That is why G-d introduces Himself as the architect of the Exodus rather than the Creator of the universe. The Exodus was a personal experience that benefitted every Jew. It was a clear expression of G-d’s love and concern and it generated within the nation a sense of trust and gratitude. “

Moreover, each Jew and member of Am Yisrael is commanded to regard themselves as if he or she personally came out of Egypt from out of the House of Bondage into Liberty. This commandment is reflected in The Oral Torah (Masechet Psachim) where it states, “בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים". “In each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself [lirot et atzmo] as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt.”

It was only after Am Yisrael was liberated that they were taught and coached in the art and the skill of practicing certain freedoms. Liberty, as the Cambridge Dictionary defines it is the right “to live as you wish or go where you want.” It means mobility.” Liberty precedes Freedom which the Oxford dictionary defines as the “condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think… whatever you want to, without being limited.” One cannot have Freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression without experiencing Liberty first. One cannot exercise the virtue of Liberty without following the Divine directive to practice choice. Freedoms must be heralded by Liberty.

The concept of Liberty is described in Vayikra (Leviticus) (Leviticus) 25:10. “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land and to all its inhabitants,” וּקְרָאֵתֶם דְּרוֹר .בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל יֹשְׁבֶיהָ” This concept was adopted 3000 years later as one the founding principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the USA. It is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.

This verse in Vayikra adds another facet to the term Liberty. The word “Dror” is used in the context of Yovel יובל (Jubilee). It is not only in terms of physical Liberty but also freedom from economic slavery. All debts are to be erased. A person who is in debts is a slave to his or her creditor. Jubilee puts people back on their feet allowing them the opportunity to experience Liberty as it should be.

Though many of us take the concept of Liberty for granted, unfortunately, a large segment of humanity is still shackled to the House of Bondage. We can only hope that this Pesach, the proclamation made in the Torah, as decreed by G-d to Am Yisrael will be carried forth and reach the ears of the hearts and souls of those who hold the key to their Liberty, Cherut, Dror and Freedom.

May we all have a meaningful Pesach crowned with every blessing

Special thanks to Michal Dar-El with her help on this.


  1. You Batzi dear, are one of a few persons cherishing truth and our people's history over politically convenient platitudes touted by too many good-for-nothing p.c. pundits

    1. Chag Pesach Sameach dear Batzi. All my warmest, Judah N. W. 🇮🇱🕎✡️


  2. Thank you Judah gor your kind words of support. We continue to celebrate Librty and freedon as Jews wherever we are individually and collectively. Chag Pesach Sameach to you and yours <3