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Sedra of the week: Vaera

‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has not made me a slave’ (Daily Morning Blessings)

This blessing, recited daily, is consistent with the intense and almost obsessive Jewish commitment to freedom. The Torah encourages the observance of Pesach, ‘the time of our freedom’, in terms unprecedented in almost all other biblical festivals.

When the process of freedom is described in this week’s Parsha in the context of God’s conversation with Moses, multiple words are used to illustrate the liberating experience: ‘I shall take you out’, ‘I shall rescue you’, ‘I shall redeem you’, ‘I shall take you to Me’, ‘I shall bring you to the land’ (Exodus 6: 6 – 8). Many of the biblical commandments are ‘in memory of the exodus from Egypt’.

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We are commanded to remember the Exodus every day of our lives. Indeed, the Torah frowns on the Jewish slave who voluntarily enters slavery beyond the minimal term.

I believe that Judaism’s efforts in developing our awareness of freedom reminds us that freedom can easily be lost. Even when we live in free societies, a luxury that many still do not enjoy, our freedom is too often lost in abusive relationships, in uncompromising employment conditions, in addiction, in poverty, in mental health conditions and so on. Judaism is aware of how vulnerable freedom is and how it must therefore be appreciated, protected, and preserved.

Judaism also asserts that as free people we must become worthy of our freedom. Freedom in Judaism is not only an elementary human right, it is primarily a calling. Freedom obliges us to shape our lives with covenant, values, compassion, justice and truth.

I hope, trust, and pray that we will all be blessed with freedom and the wisdom to use it gracefully.

  •   Rabbi Boudilovsky is rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya

Source: Jewish News

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