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Parashat Ki Tissa

03/04/2021 03:04:44 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

As Purim is now safely in the rearview mirror, we turn our attention to the next holiday, Passover. As this is my first year at OVS, you are not familiar with just how fanatical I get when it comes to Passover. Simply put, it is my favorite holiday and one that I feel we all need to pull out all the stops to go over the top in celebrating. Passover is a great holiday for so many reasons I won’t get into in this short article. It’s also a very complicated holiday, filled with so many laws and customs that many find it to be daunting. Over the coming weeks, please feel free to contact me with any and all questions about any singular aspect(s) of the holiday. Be on the lookout next week for an email about Passover that will be packed with very important information on preparing for, and observing, the holiday.

Passover is the holiday during which we celebrate freedom. With that said, we do not fully appreciate or recognize what freedom actually is. We often take freedom for granted, in large part because we do not understand what the opposite actually is. It’s natural for us to learn about the world through contrasting and comparing, and in this case, we really cannot do so from our own experience, but only by learning about the experiences of others. I recognize this is not an absolute rule since many of us know, and are friendly with, people from other parts of the world, where freedom is not a guarantee and at times doesn’t even exist. 

The freedom we celebrate at Passover is not an absolute freedom. This is in large part because freedom without constraints is not actually freedom so much as it is tyranny. While we appreciate our freedoms here in America, we must be cognizant that it’s not absolute and doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In the Spiderman comic book series, we are famously taught by Peter Parker’s uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If we were to change the word power to freedom, we could better understand the point I’m making. In order for freedom to exist, we must all accept that we live in a world of community, and as such, we each must be cognizant of the needs and desires of others in exercising their freedom when we exercise our own. Our freedoms are indeed urgently important, but our obligations and responsibilities are sacred and holy. In better understanding this dichotomy, we can better appreciate the freedom we have and what we’re actually celebrating. For a better explanation, we need look no further than a few chapters after winning our freedom following the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. Right there in chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus, we are brought into a covenantal relationship with God at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Torah and our acceptance of it. 

At that moment, we went from newly freed slaves just beginning to experience the sweet taste of freedom, to becoming partners in a covenantal relationship. In that relationship, as is the case with all relationships, there are rituals, expectations and rules. All of those mean that our freedom is not an absolute. Our freedom is not about getting to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Our freedom is about being able to recognize our own power and the effect we have, and to exercise the power within the system we live in while being cognizant of our great responsibility.

It is in this light that each of us should rejoice in our freedom, knowing that our freedom is a gift and one we all must celebrate and enjoy together in a community. It is in this light that we are better capable of recognizing the treasure of freedom in spite of not being able to compare and contrast with its polar opposite.

Mon, April 19 2021 7 Iyyar 5781