True power comes from within. True humility comes from a deep sense of and genuine comfort with our identity. This is someone who is anchored and powerful.
There’s something huge going on and we need to really get in touch with it. And so I want to discuss a most fundamental idea, which applies to every single human being and is absolutely transformative as we can get this idea more and more ingrained within us as we go through, each and every one of us, our own process of life.
February 11th, 1986, a historic event took place, which many of you may remember, it was 30 years ago, the refusenik Natan Sharansky was finally given his freedom by communist Russia and the KGB. They brought him to East Berlin and they brought him to the Glienicke bridge and there they led him free from their car, from the KGB clutches where he was to cross the bridge to the KGB counterparts or American counterparts where Natan Sharansky would finally walk to freedom. And when they finally took their hands off of him, they gave him his final instructions. And his final instructions were that he is to walk in a direct line across the bridge to their American counterpart. And what did Natan Sharansky do? What he always did. He demonstrated that no one owns him. And so instead of walking in a straight line, he walked in a zig‑zag deliberately across the bridge. And he did this even at the risk of who knows what the KGB would do in his defiance. And he was right at the moment of freedom and, yet, he still insisted on walking with a zig‑zag, not following their orders.
I find this particular act by Natan Sharansky to be very powerful and very symbolic of what freedom truly is. Because there are two forms of freedom and often we confuse the two and they are very very different. One is freedom from something and the other is freedom to something. Often when we speak about freedom, we talk about freedom from. When Natan Sharansky was being let go by the KGB, he was attaining freedom from a people who were controlling him and, therefore, taking away his freedom. But simply because he was leaving their clutches did not really determine that he would live freely. Because there are many things that constrain and limit us.
It is only when we know what it is that we are living for and we dedicate ourselves to that that we are experiencing true self freedom. And that is what we call freedom to. Because we have a freedom to something not only a freedom from something.
I am not free simply because no one else can control me. I am free when I am in full control of myself, when I define the purpose for my living.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who you may have heard of, he actually uses this differentiation in translating two Hebrew words which are both loosely translated as freedom. There’s a Hebrew word called chofesh, and this word is very often used for vacation. Well, what is a vacation? Very often a vacation is getting away from work. We call that freedom from.
Cheirut, which is the Hebrew word we use in relation to the Exodus from Egypt is the meaning of freedom to something, not only freedom from.
And in fact, in our very own national anthem of the United States of America we sing, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And, arguably, the land of the free is a very different place than the home of the brave. The land of the free is the place that people very often think of when they talk about the free country of America. And that is a land of democracy where one can do as they wish, as long as it’s within, of course, the laws of the land. Freedom of expression, freedom of religion, et cetera. You can do whatever you would like.
That is a land can only offer you freedom from, but if you really want to be a free individual, a free person who lives for something so that you liberate your spirit from any constraints, so that it’s driven towards what your values are, for that you need the home of the brave. Because it requires true bravery for someone to become free to something.
And, in fact, the difference is that freedom from is an external freedom, it comes from outside of me, it’s whether outside elements are controlling me or not. Freedom to is an inner freedom, where I acquire the freedom from within. And so freedom is truly the ability for one to be themselves. Freedom is my ability to be me. Freedom is your ability to be you. That means for me to discover who I truly am and to dedicate my life to that person that G‑d made me to be.
Now, of course, I need freedom from the outside to give me the ability to do as I please, but then there is me getting to know myself, to know who I was created as, to know what my responsibilities are, to know what my mission is. And then to find the bravery, the courage to dedicate myself to that.
And this is actually the association between the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. It’s fascinating that the Torah, in the Torah G‑d explicitly tells Moses that, I am liberating the Jewish people so that they shall serve me at this mountain, referring to Mount Sinai where G‑d gives the Jewish people the Torah. And one can very easily wonder, well, what type of freedom did the Jews experience? They got out of Egypt and suddenly they find themselves, as some may say, enslaved to G‑d. But G‑d was giving us the true experience of freedom. And that is that G‑d says, I’m taking you out of the external clutches of Egypt who are controlling you from without, but that doesn’t suffice, that’s not real freedom. I’m going to give you your purpose for living so that you can be dedicated to that purpose. That’s extremely powerful and that is real true inner freedom.
And in many respects, that is the conflict that goes on between every one of our souls, our soul within us, which is exiled within our body. And when we liberate our spirit, when we liberate our soul so that our body doesn’t always lead us in the direction we take in life, but on the contrary, our soul overrides our body and says, There’s something more valuable than material, physical indulgence, then we are experiencing true freedom. That is very very powerful.
So there is nothing like the freedom of the soul expressing itself freely. And so when we see a person who seems just so free, free spirited, so open, very often that simply comes from a person who had the bravery to ask themselves, who am I really, who has G‑d made me to be? And they have dedicated themselves to that.
This is the eight‑day workshop of Passover. It is to discover true freedom. Not only living ‑‑ leaving external restraints, but also discovering who I am and dedicating myself to that.
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