From Slavery to Freedom. And Back Again


DISCLAIMER: Slavery is a horrific, dehumanizing institution that continues to destroy the lives of, primarily, women and young girls throughout the world.  While this post uses the term “slavery” metaphorically, it is not meant to diminish the real-life effects of slavery nor to marginalize the lives of those being despoiled by it. In no way am I equating the metaphoric “slavery” discussed in this post with actual slavery

 Spring is here, and with it every Jew’s favorite “They-tried-to-kill-us-They-failed-Let’s-eat” holiday —  Pesach (a.k.a. Passover).  As with most holidays, there are themes, concepts, and values that are tied to each ritual.  The principal theme of Pesach is freedom, as it celebrates the Israelites’’ redemption from slavery in Egypt.  The irony of Pesach is we celebrate this holiday of freedom by becoming slaves to tradition, serving our great-grandmother’s charoset[i] recipe and using the same Maxwell House Haggadot[ii] that have been in the family for generations.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I will be following the tradition of taking on some mourning rituals during the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, particularly not shaving or cutting my hair.  Not sure what I will be doing about kitnyiot[iii], however.]

Rabbis, sages, self-help gurus, and bloggers have been advising us for years to use Pesach, and it’s theme of freedom, to examine our lives in order to identify the aspects of our lives that “enslave” us today.  Many people find themselves slaves to articles, books, and blog posts that encourage us to free ourselves from what in our lives enslaves us.  Technology, particularly social media, is usually on the top of everyone’s list.  How many times have you heard a friend (or yourself) say, “I got nothing done today.  I just spent the whole day on email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram . . .”?  Well, worry not. There is an app, appropriately called Freedom, which blocks all social media on your electronic devices, freeing you from all distraction so you can, ironically, work more thus becoming a slave to your job.

The point?  Pesach presents us an opportunity to identify the many masters we have in our lives, but it is not necessary to free ourselves of all of them all at once.  Nor can we, once free, declare ourselves free for all time.  Freedom is a continuous, active process, not a one and done.  But don’t be intimidated: start small.  Try a charoset recipe from Surinam[iv] or serve rice and beans at your seder.  Why not?  After all, Pesach is all about freedom.





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