What is freedom?
Some might say sitting on the beach on a sunny day. Having your dream job. Being able to retire. Getting the garage organized.
The existential answers range from feeling joyful to living without depression or fear.
We say, if only I had more free time…if only I had my dream job…if only I was able to retire…if only my garage was organized…if only I could live without depression or fear…if only I had x amount of money.
But what if we finally Arrived at our ultimate destination- would we then truly be happy and feel free?
Is freedom only about removing ourselves from chains?
Ultimately, we cannot disentangle ourselves from physical, emotional, or psychological bondage simply to be free, because it is strictly a self-serving pursuit: I might finally get the free time-but end up feeling listless and empty. I might finally get my dream job-but then preoccupy myself with another “if only.” I might retire-but be uncertain about this new way of life. I might get my garage organized-only to realize that there is more in life that dictates my happiness. I might finally be living without depression or fear-but feel like my life lacks depth. I might make the amount of money I always dreamed of-but then want more than what I have.
With our success in removing constraints, comes the importance of being free For Something: I want to feel less fear…but do I know how I will conduct my nights and days when I’m less fearful? I want to get rid of my doubts and indecision…but do I know what I want to be decisive about? I want to stop wanting material things to fill a void…but do I know what to fill that void with?
As Passover looms near, I have to accept that there are certain house projects that I once again will probably not get to in the annual deep-cleaning fest.
I begin wondering what would replace all the tasks that have grown so large in my thoughts: What if all these projects were done? What if I was able to clean up all the clutter in my mind? What if all my circumstances were perfect? What would life…freedom…look like then?
We encourage our children to get good grades so they can excel in school, then get into a good college, then get a good job, then live a comfortable life…but to what end? What purpose?
When our freedom is not directed towards a higher goal, freedom isn’t free.
Freedom then comes with a price called Purposelessness.
So what should our ultimate Purpose be?
The same purpose of the Jews who left slavery in Egypt after Moshe repeatedly told Pharaoh to “let my people go,” as he explained, “so that they may serve G-d in the desert.”
Moshe understood that despite the slavery his people were enduring, it wasn’t enough to alleviate their suffering and take them out of Egypt. They needed somewhere to go, Someone to serve.
It’s been three thousand years since that conversation, but Egypt remains not only a geographic location, it is also a mindset.
We, too, want to “let ourselves go” from the bondage of self, of circumstances.
And what do we want to do with our freedom?
Beyond sitting in the sun and dream jobs and living without fear, at our essence, we, too, want to lead our most meaningful life possible, infused with spirituality. Thinking about the world outside ourselves; our Creator’s desires, others’ needs.
On the deepest level, we simply want to serve G-d.
To use our peacefulness to be a better father/mother, son/daughter, spouse, friend. To use our hard-earned money for tzedakah, thinking not only how we want more, but about so many who have less. To use my extra time to talk to G-d, or visit the elderly, giving them the time and attention they need.
So my meditation this Passover Seder as I eat Shmurah Matzah, hand-made matzah that according to Kabbalah is the “bread of healing,” and the “bread of faith”: When my freedom is G-d-focused, I have not only Freedom From, but Freedom To.
Freedom to the deepest purpose, meaning, and happiness.