Some Collected Thoughts on Freedom

March 22, 2010 - 7:32 pm 13 Comments

Quotes on Freedom
Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote the freedom to err.
– Mahatma Gandhi (20th c. Indian Freedom Leader)

Better to be a free bird than a captive king.
– Danish proverb

It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have everything one wants.
– Blaise Pascal (France)

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.
– J.S. Mill (English 19th c. Political Philosopher)

Freedom is taken, not given.
– Ahad Haam (Zionist, 20th c. Thinker)

The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom Hegel
Ever since the Exodus, freedom has always been spoken with a Hebrew accent….Henrich Heine

The Meaning of Freedom
“And G-d said to Moshe, ‘go to Pharoah, and say to him, “thus says G-d: ‘LET MY PEOPLE GO…'”‘” [Exodus 7:26] This is, of course, one of the most famous quotes in the Bible. It is also one of the most common half-quotes therein. Verse 7:26 does not, in fact, conclude “let My people go,” but “let My people go, and they will serve Me.” … What are we free to do? To serve G-d! And thus we come upon an entirely different understanding of freedom than the view of modern Western cultural thought.
The Torah teaches meaning. Service of G-d imbues the most trivial of acts with sacred purpose. It says that a person can perfect him or herself, and the entire world, and sets the person out onto a path towards that destination.
When is a person free? Not when they are driftwood on the stream of life…free of all cares or worries or ambitions….He or she is not free at all—not drugged, like the lotus eaters in the Odyssey… To be free in actions, in struggle, in undiverted and purposeful achievement, is to move forward towards a worthy objective. We move across a fierce terrain of resistance, to be vital and aglow in the exercise of a great enterprise–that is to be free, and to know the joy and exhilaration of true freedom.
A person is free only when they have an purpose on earth.
– Abba Hillel Silver (20th c. Reform Rabbi and Zionist Leader)

Torah teaches meaning. Service of G-d imbues the most trivial of acts with sacred purpose. It says that a person can perfect him or herself, and the entire world, and sets out a path towards that destination. And this is why the Torah can claim that its adherents are truly, ultimately, happily free.

This Passover, may we truly celebrate and recognize what we have — the tool for ultimate freedom!

With blessings for a happy and kosher holiday,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken

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