Boruch M. Boudilovsky
Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya

Vaera: The Precious but Fragile Gift of Freedom

‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has not made me a slave’ (Daily Morning Blessings)

This blessing, recited daily, is consistent with the intense and almost obsessive Jewish commitment to freedom. The Torah encourages the observance of Pesach, ‘the time of our freedom’, in terms unprecedented in almost all other biblical festivals. When the process of freedom is described in this week’s Parsha in the context of God’s conversation with Moses, multiple words are used to illustrate the liberating experience: ‘I shall take you out’, ‘I shall rescue you’, ‘I shall redeem you’, ‘I shall take you to Me’, ‘I shall bring you to the land’(Exodus 6: 6 – 8). Many of the biblical commandments are ‘in memory of the exodus from Egypt’. We are commanded to remember the Exodus every day of our lives. Indeed, the Torah frowns upon the Jewish slave who voluntarily enters slavery beyond the minimal term.

I believe that Judaism’s concentrated efforts in developing our awareness of freedom, reminds us that contrary to what we would imagine, freedom can easily be lost. Even when we are fortunate to live in free societies, a luxury which much of the human population still does not enjoy, our freedom is too often lost in abusive relationships, in uncompromising employment conditions, in addiction, in poverty, in mental health conditions etc. Judaism is aware of how vulnerable freedom really is and how it must therefore be zealously appreciated, protected, and preserved.

Judaism additionally asserts that as free people we must become worthy of our freedom. Freedom in Judaism is not only an elementary human right, it is primarily a calling. Freedom not only enables but obligates us to shape our lives with covenant, values, compassion, justice, and truth.

Daily, when we bless God for not being slaves, we are inspired to carefully conserve our freedom, as well as employ it, thereby becoming worthy of this beautiful gift. I hope, trust, and pray that we will all be blessed with freedom and the wisdom to use it gracefully.

About the Author
Rabbi Boruch Boudilovsky was born in Israel and grew up in Scotland and New York. After graduating high school in Denver Colorado, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel where he studied at Yeshiva, served as an IDF combat paratrooper, and completed his Rabbinic training. After working in Israel as both a formal and informal educator in various exciting environments, Rabbi Boudilovsky was appointed in 2010 as Associate Rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, the largest Orthodox community in the United Kingdom. During his years in London, Rabbi Boudilovsky led a successful startup Synagogue and community in South Borehamwood, and completed an MA at King’s College London in the department of Religion and Theology. In the summer of 2016, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel with his family to accept the position of Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya.
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