Weekly Torah Commentary — Passover April 3-4, 2015

Exodus 12: 21-51

As Passover this year falls on Shabbat, the regular Torah reading cycle is interrupted to accommodate the passages from the book of Exodus describing the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves under the leadership of Moses.  After repeated pleas by Moses to Pharaoh, ‘Let My people go!’ the ruler of Egypt finally relented after the final plague, the deaths of the firstborn of every household in Egypt. A nation of slaves became free men – literally overnight. Their hard labor was over.  Never again would they suffer the whippings of the taskmasters, the taunts of their supervisors.

Freedom from hard labor and physical bondage can be won in a day but attaining inner freedom is a lifetime journey all of us make.  Shackles can be removed from wrists and ankles but what of the mental and emotional shackles?

The story of the Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land is that of life itself.  With freedom comes responsibility.  The children of Israel soon learned that their exit from Egypt gifted them with choices previously unavailable. But that very freedom carried consequences, as every decision does.

They learned that freedom doesn’t mean you can do anything you want; it means you are free to choose what is right and honorable. Excuses and rationalizations for doing otherwise have been eliminated.

They learned that freedom doesn’t provide the opportunity to indulge every self-serving whim but the privileged position to serve others in kindness and humility.

The freedom given to the Hebrew slaves was not an end in itself; it was the pathway to become what they were called to become: a holy nation, a chosen people, a treasure to the Most High.  Growing into that destiny meant daily repeated choices to obey God’s voice and follow His instructions.  As slaves they were required to obey the injunctions of brutal foremen who never hesitated to beat them into subjection if necessary.  As free men, they were called to obey the life-giving principles of a loving God, who was also their Father and their King. The truth is that obedience to God and His Word is the highest form of freedom man can enjoy.

To this day, men still struggle with the idea of freedom.  The lazy man prefers bondage for it demands no personal responsibility.  Yet God did not fashion us for captivity, but for freedom.

Passover is a good time for a spiritual ‘check up from the neck up’ because the main obstacle to our spiritual freedom is our mind; the world of our thoughts.  It’s no wonder that Solomon wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

How free are you inside? In your inner being?

Are you free of the fear of what other people think?  (Or what you think they think?)

Are you free of negativity, complaining and griping?

Are you free of gossip and slander?

Are you free of greed, jealousy and envy?

The Holy One of Israel set us free, not that we should enslave ourselves all over again, but that we should live productive, loving and meaningful lives.

In Tune with Torah this week = during this major biblical holiday, take some time to have that ‘check up from the neck up’ and purpose to embrace the godly freedom that will propel you forward in your journey towards holiness.

May each of you be blessed in abundance this Passover week.  Let all of the ‘leaven of this world’ be eliminated and embrace with passion the purpose and destiny of your soul.

Shabbat Shalom and a wonderful Passover week to you all!

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