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Shavuoth - A Deeper Look at Freedom

Shavuoth - A Deeper Look at Freedom

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Published by aishbooks
Shavuoth is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai over 3,000 years ago.
The Sages declare: "There is no free person except one who is immersed in Torah."
What type of religious double-talk is this?! Here in America and the West, the "land of the free," we have options like never before. Free speech. Free press. Free market economy. So what does freedom have to do with Torah or religion? If anything, doesn't religion restrict freedom?
And what does this have to do with Shavuoth?

Shavuoth is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai over 3,000 years ago.
The Sages declare: "There is no free person except one who is immersed in Torah."
What type of religious double-talk is this?! Here in America and the West, the "land of the free," we have options like never before. Free speech. Free press. Free market economy. So what does freedom have to do with Torah or religion? If anything, doesn't religion restrict freedom?
And what does this have to do with Shavuoth?

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Published by: aishbooks on May 16, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/27/2011

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http://www.aish.com/shavuotthemes/shavuotthemesdefault/Soaring_to_Freedom.asp
Soaring to Freedom
by Yaakov Astor
 
Torah is our guidepost for traversing the maze of life.
 
The Sages declare: "There is no free person except one who is immersed in Torah."What type of religious double-talk is this?! Here in America and the West, the "land ofthe free," we have options like never before. Free speech. Free press. Free marketeconomy. So what does freedom have to do with Torah or religion? If anything, doesn'treligion
restrict 
freedom?Indeed, detractors of Judaism take issue with the numerous commandments: theyconstrict freedom, are a burden, and make life overbearing. God wouldn't really wanthumans to live that way, would He?
Fort Knox
Imagine you have the opportunity to enter Fort Knox for one hour to grab all the goldyou can. The only condition is that you have to first walk through a magnificentamusement park, a veritable Disneyworld, which is directly adjacent to the entrance ofthe Fort. "No problem," you think to yourself. "It will take me 10 -- maximum 15 --minutes to walk through the park. I'll have plenty of time left to take all the gold I willever need!"The hour begins. Since there is so much time, you relax for a few moments to take inthe sights: fantastic props, dazzling rides, throngs of excited people, snacks, food,fountains and more.You quickly lose yourself amidst all the fascinating amusements. A half-hour goes by.Forty minutes. Fifty minutes. Fifty-five. Fifty-nine minutes go by, and suddenly youremember: The hour is almost up!As the sixtieth minute strikes, the gates of Fort Knox unceremoniously close in yourface.
 
Our world is a Disney World. It possesses the potential for untold spiritual wealth. Yetthis wealth is situated amidst a fantasy park of sideshows and distractions. Indeed,they possess a special attraction and beauty. But they draw us away from theopportunity of acquiring true wealth.Spending one's life at Disney World is not "freedom;" it is an abuse of freedom. If weabuse our freedom and attach ourselves to things of an exclusively physical,temporary nature, we lose the freedom needed to achieve the very purpose for whichwe were placed here: to become closer to God by being more like God.
Wings of the Dove
The story is told about the first dove. It was created wingless and complained bitterly toGod. "I have no teeth or paws to defend myself. I'm small and can't even flee from preyon these two skinny legs. The way you made me is so unfair."God heard its plea and declared, "Okay, I will compensate you."Shortly thereafter, the dove returned and complained even more bitterly. "It was badenough before you 'compensated' me, but now I have these two large clumps on myback. They only add more weight, and make it harder for me to run away!""You don't understand," God replied. "Those clumps are wings. Spread them and youwill fly."The Talmud calls mitzvot the wings of a dove.To the uninformed, mitzvot may seem like added weight, an unwieldy burden. Whoneeds to be told every minute another thing to do? And does God really care about ourevery little act?In actuality, the mitzvot are what enable our souls to fly. They help protect, create andperpetuate our connection to God in this world. Each commandment, in its own way,teaches us how to manifest Godly reality in our lives -- how to refrain from that whichnumbs us to His presence, and how to participate in that which brings Him out frombehind the murky shadows of our mundane activities.The Torah's negative commandments -- the "Thou shall not's -- are mechanisms offreedom. They help us unshackle ourselves from the strong undertow of distracting
 
sideshows. Once freed from these distractions, the positive commandments -- the"Thou shall's -- direct us to the spiritual wealth inherent in each waking moment.
Liberty vs. Freedom
Liberty is not the same as freedom. Liberty provides the right to vote, the right to dueprocess of the law, the right to hold unpopular views without fear of retribution.Yet freedom is even greater. Freedom is not restricted to externals, like government orpowerful individuals. Freedom is
internal 
power. Thus you can have a situation wheremany people are not free, despite the fact that they live in a land of liberty. Their soulsare in prison.How many people do we know, and how many stories have we heard, of well-intentioned people who end up enslaved to their careers, who give up everything toacquire a faster car and larger home, only in the end to find that they have neglectedtheir children, their marriage, their very selves?Viktor Frankel, a survivor of the concentration camps, wrote in his seminal,
Man's Search For Meaning 
: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last ofthe human freedoms -- to choose one's attitudes in any given set of circumstances."In the camp, stripped of every material and moral cover, Frankel demonstrated thatthose who were struck by the revelation that no one could rob them of their spiritualand moral freedom, had an infinitely greater chance of surviving than others.This is what the Sages mean when they proclaim, "There is no free person except onewho is immersed in Torah."
Bells of Freedom
Egypt in Hebrew is
Mitzrayim 
, related to the word,
may-tzar 
, "fence." As long as theJews were in Egypt, they were fenced in, imprisoned. And they endured much morethan physical slavery. They became attached to Egyptian culture, to the degree thatsome later complained about the food they ate at no cost back in Egypt (Numbers11:5) -- ignoring the fact that the price was oppressive physical bondage!It's one thing to take the Jews out of slavery, but another thing to take the slavery outof the Jews.

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