Areyah Kaltmann

Passover: Freedom from Slavery & From Addiction

The Passover Festival celebrates freedom from slavery, both external and internal. Passover takes place this year from April 22-30, 2024 (Image Source:

On the eve of April 22nd and 23rd, Jews around the world will sit down for the Passover Seders – a 3,000 year old tradition commemorating the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. As far as Jewish holidays go, Passover is probably the most recognizable Jewish holiday. Most recognize the Matzah – the unleavened Passover bread – and many have heard of the Seder, a time when families get together to discuss and memorialize their ancestor’s freedom from slavery. Passover’s message is synonymous with a people’s liberation and an everlasting tradition.  

But Passover’s message actually goes much deeper. Passover is not just a nation’s remembrance of G-d’s deliverance over three millennia ago. In truth, Passover communicates a penetrating lesson in personal achievement and worth—one that applies to every person.  

Fundamentally, Passover is the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is Mitzrayim. The root of the word Mitzrayim is the word Meitzar which also means “limitations” in Hebrew. The moral here is that Passover is not simply an event that happened thousands of years ago, nor just a story about the ills of slavery and a nation’s liberation. Passover holds a lesson for every person, no matter where they stand, about releasing yourself from the personal limitations you place on yourself.

As people living in 2024 we believe we have unlimited freedom. We have rights and independence, free to do as we please and pursue our own happiness. But if you take a moment to look at society around you, you’ll find that people are not actually free; far from it, in fact. We each have our own pair of shackles, tied down to our urges and limited views of ourselves. Afraid to dream or believe, we pacify ourselves with momentary pleasures and novel distractions. The most extreme example of this is addiction—a field I have been involved in for years. 

Addiction is the opposite of freedom. An addict is someone who is desperately attempting to fill some void in his soul and turns to substances as a way to quiet the pain. The addict uses until he is completely reliant on the substance and cannot exist in the world without being bound to it. An addict must place his addiction before everything else he loves whether it’s his family, friends, job, or future. Trapped in the prison of addiction, the addict cannot prioritize anything else. 

Pharaoh in the Passover story is the prototypical symbol of the addict and his addiction was power. When Moses confronts Pharaoh and demands he let his people free, Pharaoh actually agrees. He offers Moses conditions for their release but then does a 180. He vacillates and changes his mind, all very puzzling behavior until you realize that Pharaoh was simply addicted to power. 

When Pharaoh told Moses he would let the Jews go free he was being sincere. But like all addicts when it came time to give his addiction up he just couldn’t do it. 

Passover’s message is that we all have personal limitations that we need to break from. For some it’s as extreme as a debilitating addiction, for others, it can be negative tendencies or self-limiting beliefs preventing us from realizing our potential. Passover provides the time to investigate these parts of ourselves, and provides a roadmap to overcoming them. 

As the director of LifeTown Columbus, an organization made to help special-needs children learn crucial life skills, I have recently become more involved in the addiction space. One of the most overlooked demographics when it comes to addiction prevention is the special-needs community, which is concerning because they are of the most at-risk for substance abuse. 

In 2018, we incorporated the Stop to Live program as part of our Lifetown chapter to help equip our children with the tools and mindset to refrain from using harmful substances. Through a carefully structured curriculum, we impart the essential and timeless message that lays at the heart of substance-abuse prevention, and the message of Passover. 

The essence of what we teach to the children in our program to help them stay away from harmful substances is that you are incalculably special. You have a soul from G-d which gives you unlimited potential to do good and change the world. By imparting a feeling of worthiness and self-esteem, we empower our children to see themselves as someone who’s worth taking care of. 

And that is precisely how Passover instructs us all to break out from our personal limitations. When we realize how special we all are, how much potential we have, and how much we have yet to contribute to the world, we can free ourselves from anything holding us back and fulfill our unique purpose for coming into this world. 

This Passover, let’s count our blessings, help others who need it, and do the work we can to overcome our limitations, making our world a freer and happier place.

Good Shabbos

About the Author
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the Director of Chabad Columbus at the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center. For over three decades, Rabbi Kaltmann and his wife Esther have put their heart and soul into serving the Columbus Jewish community. In addition to directing Chabad Columbus, the Rabbi and his family also operate LifeTown Columbus — which teaches essential life skills to more than 2,100 Ohio students with special needs in a 5,000-square-foot miniature city, Kitchen of Life — which fosters social-emotional skills for young people through culinary arts, Friendship Circle Columbus, the Jewish Business Network, and dozens of other programs. Areyah and Esther have adult children who serve Chabad of Downtown Columbus, oversee Chabad’s many programs and enthusiastically serve people throughout the state.
Related Topics
Related Posts