We live in a free country. We have a Constitution that guarantees freedom. But are we truly free today?
How often do we feel constrained from being who we really want to be and from doing what we really want to do? We are constrained by health problems, financial difficulties, emotional stress, lack of motivation and other factors. These difficulties are minor in comparison to actual slavery, but are we truly free?
On Monday, March 25th (and again on Tuesday, March 26th), Jews around the world will be celebrating freedom when they sit down at a Passover Seder this year for the 3,325th time. They will sit surrounded by family and friends celebrating our miraculous Exodus from Egyptian slavery to becoming a free people.
When did the Seder tradition begin?
The very first Seder was celebrated even before our people were free! Back in Egypt on the eve of the Exodus, Moses told the people to prepare a Pascal lamb, eat Matzah and bitter herbs, and celebrate the Exodus before they were actually freed.
What were they celebrating? How can the people celebrate freedom while they are still slaves in Egypt and have yet to leave?
Freedom is more than freedom from slavery, tyranny or persecution.
True freedom is in the mind. True freedom is the ability to rise beyond the constraints of our own reality and be true to ourselves. True freedom is up to us; no one can take it away.
When our ancestors sat down to celebrate the first Seder while still in Egypt over 3,000 years ago, they were celebrating a spiritual Exodus; the knowledge that they control their own mind and spiritual destiny. Though still physically slaves, their spirits were free.
Freedom in spirit is up to every individual no matter what their constraints may be.
Recognizing the power of spiritual freedom, over 10 years ago we started the Friendship Circle so that children in our community with different external constraints and handicaps can express their true freedom of spirit.
In the years since, the soring spirit of the over 1,200 special needs children in the Friendship Circle have taught the 1,500 friends and volunteers that true spiritual freedom is possible no matter what the situation and no matter what their constraints may be.
This year when you sit down at a Seder to celebrate our freedom with your children, family and friends, take a moment to think about what really makes you free. While you may have many constraints in your life, your true freedom is really up to you.
Or join us at the Jewish Community Center for our Communal Seder on Monday, March 25 at 7 p.m. to experience a fun-filled family-centered Seder and on Tuesday, March 26 at 4 p.m. for our unique children-centered Seder. Register or learn more by calling (310) 214-4999 or visiting our website.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Passover.
Rabbi Yossi Mintz
The Jewish Community Center
P.S. Learn more about the amazing work of our Friendship Circle at www.gotfriends.com or call (310) 214-6677.