Coming up on the holiday of Passover, next Monday night, I remember the story of how once in Israel, the matriculation test in English for high school seniors required them to write an essay titled: "The best things in life are free". However, an overwhelming majority of the kids wrote an essay that should have been titled: "The best thing in life is freedom".

Besides the fact that the kids' English was less than superb, this indicated what was really important in the minds of Israeli youth: freedom.
Freedom is a very heavy obligation and responsibility. If you are a slave – someone else is thinking for you, making the decisions,
responsible for you, while you have no decisions to make, no responsibility, no obligation other than to obey orders. It's like the old army joke that when you go into the army as a private – you not only exchange your civilian clothes for a uniform, but you also put your thinking abilities into deep freeze storage. But if you are free – then you have decisions to take on every step in your life, and you bear the responsibility for actions that affect not only you – but others, and sometimes even the whole world. As in the army – if you're a private and you make a mistake, it's one thing, but if you're an officer or a general – every decision is a heavy responsibility and the consequences of every decision you make is born by many, many others.

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So when we were slaves in Egypt we had to concentrate just on surviving, not just physically, but even more so mentally. In Egypt – and throughout the exile and dispersion – we had to concentrate on retaining our inner identity. We had no other important decisions to make. But when we are taken out of Egypt, or in our days from the Diaspora back to Israel, we have to learn to take responsibility.

But you see friends, sometimes we mistakenly think that having freedom means following whatever our whims and inclinations are telling us to do. We may mistakenly think that freedom can be staying in bed all day to binge on coffee, cake and twelve seasons of a T.V. series. Really, though, that's just another type of slavery, similar to the slavery of fashion telling you what to wear; the slavery of reading the opinion page of a newspaper so you know what to think and what books to read. That's the low idea of freedom, to do what you want according to the first inclination that jumps into your mind or your stomach. It's really a type of slavery that can be worse than official slavery, because as a slave - the master can't really tell you what to think, what to feel or what to dream. A slave to outside fashions and inside inclinations and urges can never be free to think and dream – unless they learn to really choose, to master their inclinations and be free of exterior pressures.

That's a very hard thing to do, and that's why freedom is a difficult, heavy responsibility. Back in high school we learned two very different definitions of freedom:
"Freedom is what you want to do" – but until I know who I am, how can I know what I truly want, not just what advertisers are trying to get me to want?
The other definition is "Freedom to do what you ought to do", but if another human is trying to tell me what I ought to do – isn't that the gateway to tyranny?

On Passover eve we Jews sit around the family table, possibly with guests, hopefully without any electronic communication gadgets, and we say: "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God our Lord took us out"; slaves to a king without individuality in a society that had been fossilized for thousands of years. Only by accepting God as our Lord can we attain freedom, the ability to be true to our own inner soul. Only by understanding that freedom obligates me to a moral and spiritual standard – can I start to be truly free, and that's something we Jews have been learning and living since the Exodus from Egypt, 3328 years ago, coming next Monday night.
 
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