Tag Archive | "FREEDOM"

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CLERGY CORNER: Let your music soar

Posted on 02 June 2016 by LeslieM

The story is told of a king who decided to reward a peasant who had done him a great service. “Shall I give him a sack of gold? A bag of pearls?” thought the king. “But these mean virtually nothing to me. I want, for once, to truly give something – something that I will miss, a gift that constitutes a sacrifice for me.”

Now this king had a nightingale who sang the sweetest songs a human ear had ever heard. He treasured the nightingale over all else and found life unbearable without it. So he summoned the peasant to his palace and gave him the bird. “This,” said the king, “is in appreciation for your loyalty and devotion.”

Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, and took the royal gift to his humble home.

A while later, the king was passing through the peasant’s village and commanded his coachman to halt at the peasant’s door.

How are you enjoying my gift?” he inquired of his beloved subject.

The truth to tell, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, “the bird’s meat was quite tough – all but inedible, in fact. But I cooked it with lots of potatoes, and it gave the stew an interesting flavor.”

Is this freedom?

People often ask, “Why does Judaism prohibit me from doing whatever I want? Why can’t we just be free, liberated and individualistic? Why are there so many laws, instructions and rituals in Judaism that govern every aspect of one’s life, from the way we eat to the way we marry? Would it not have been nice if the opening of the Ten Commandments would have read like this: ‘I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt in order to set you free. Now, young women and men, listen ye to my words! You can do whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want, with whomever you want, as long as you don’t hurt another person. I honor your individual rights to choose your own lifestyle and behavior, without anybody governing your decisions. Conform not to any standard; just live it up!’”

Is this why we left the house of bondage in Egypt – to become slaves to the Almighty?

The Sages saw it otherwise. “There is no free man, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah” (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:2.) Really? If anything, it is exactly the other way around: as long as you don’t learn Torah, you are free to engage in so many activities, the options are open. Once you embrace Torah, there goes your freedom … Torah mixes into everything … A life that is faithful to the precepts of the Torah is indeed greatly “constricted” and “confined.”

Scattering the energy

On the face of it, the Jewish code of behavior is a limiting factor, something that detracts from the great variety of possibilities that life has to offer. In truth, however, the very opposite is the case.

A life without parameters is a life that quickly dissipates into the cosmic heterogeneity in which we exist, draining it of all power and impact. When we follow our instincts, habits, cravings and appetites without any restrictions, our inner momentum, focus and depth are weakened. When we allow ourselves the freedom to go in every direction, when there are no boundaries or limitations and we are free to do everything and anything – our light scatters all over the place and we never realize our ultimate power and potential. Our energies are squandered, our richness is compromised, our creativity silenced and our brightness dulled.

Conversely, when we “restrict” the light, and do now allow it to flow anywhere and everywhere, we fine-tune our inner creativity, we cultivate our power, we become the most powerful people we can become, we access all of our momentum and we can vaporize even steel …

It is like the chords of a violin which must be tied down to allow the music to play. Torah and Halacha (law) do not come to tie us down, but rather to allow our music to soar.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the word Halacha is the acronym of “let the whole earth sing to G-d.” What is meat-and-potatoes for one person is a nightingale for another person, capable of producing the most beautiful music in the world.

Shavuot is the Holiday in which G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people 3,328 years ago. This year, we celebrate Shavuot on June 12 and 13.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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Posted on 07 January 2016 by LeslieM

The Biblical account of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt has been one of the most inspiring stories for the oppressed, enslaved and downtrodden throughout history. From the American Revolution to the slaves of the American South, to Martin Luther King’s Let Freedom Ring, the narrative of the Exodus provided countless peoples with the courage to hope for a better future, and to act on the dream.

Moses’ first visit to Pharaoh demanding liberty for his people only brought more misery to the Hebrew slaves; the Egyptian monarch increased their torture. The Hebrews now would not listen any longer to the promise of redemption. Now let us pay heed to this strange verse in Exodus:

So G-d spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He gave them a command (charge) for the children of Israel, and a command to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, to let the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

G-d is charging Moses with two directives: Command the people of Israel and then command Pharaoh the king. However, the verse is ambiguous: What did G-d command Moses to instruct the people? The message for Pharaoh is clear: Let the children of Israel out of Egypt. But what is it that Moses is supposed to command the people themselves?

The Jerusalem Talmud says something profoundly enigmatic: G-d instructed Moses to command to the Jewish people the laws of freeing slaves.

The Talmud is referring to a law recorded later in Exodus: If a Jew sells himself as a slave, the owner must let him go after six years. He is forbidden to hold on to the slave for longer. This was the law Moses was to share with the Israelites while they were in Egyptian bondage.

Yet, this seems like a cruel joke. The Children of Israel at this point were crushed and tormented slaves themselves, subjugated by a genocidal despot and a tyrannical regime, enduring horrific torture. Yet,at this point in time, G-d wants Moses to command them about the laws relevant to the aristocrat, the feudal lord, the slave-owner?

The answer to this question is profoundly simple and moving, and is vital to the understanding of liberty in the Biblical imagination.

Before Pharaoh can liberate the Jewish slaves, they must be ready to become free. You can take a man out of slavery, but it may prove more challenging to take slavery out of a man. Externally, you may be free; internally, you may still be enslaved.

What is the first and foremost symptom of being free? That you learn to confer freedom on others.

The dictator, the control freak, or the abusive spouse or parent, does not know how give others freedom. He (or she) feels compelled to force others into the mold that he has created for them. Uncomfortable in his own skin, he is afraid that someone will overshadow him, expose his weaknesses, usurp his position or make him feel extra in this world. Outwardly he attempts to appear powerful, but, inwardly, his power is a symptom of inner misery and confinement.

Only when one learns to embrace others, not for whom he would like them to be, but for whom they are, then can he begin to embrace himself, not for whom he wishes he was, but for whom he is. When we free those around us, we are freeing ourselves. By accepting them, we learn to accept ourselves.

Who is powerful? He who empowers. Who is free? He who can free others. Who is a leader? He who creates other leaders.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” President Abraham Lincoln said. Ask yourself, do you know how to celebrate the soaring success of your loved ones and constituents? Do you encourage them to spread their wings and maximize their potentials? Can you allow others to shine?

Pharaoh may set you free physically. But former slaves can become present tyrants. People who were abused often become abusers themselves. It is what they know about life; it is the paradigm they were raised with. They grew up in abuse and slavery, so they continue the cycle with others.

The first commandment the Jews had to hear from Moses, before even he could go the Pharaoh to demand he let them go free, was, “One day you will be free. Remember that freedom is a gift; use it to free others.”

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches located at 4081 N. Federal Hwy., #100A, Pompano Beach, FL 33064. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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