Freedom! Liberation! How sweet is the sound!
Barely liberated from Egyptian bondage, Hebrew slaves were longing for the life they had left behind. The French and the Communist revolutions sought to liberate people from exploitation by the rich and powerful, only to supplant them with tyranny. Some young people today reject the Western social order they consider oppressive for much harsher structures like radical Islam and white supremacy.
The noble ideal of national liberation often transforms into denying it to others or it makes things worse for its proponents. The legendary hero Bar Kokhba, who led the most audacious Jewish revolt against Rome, in fact brought about 18 centuries of oppression and persecution of Jews.
Freedom and bondage are not a zero-sum game. In our implicit social contract, we accept a complex mixture of restrictions and liberties. Freed from Egypt, the Hebrew slaves submit to a covenant with a higher power. A two-sided covenant. Divine protection and national fulfillment in exchange for walking in God’s ways, summed up “on one foot” as “What is hateful to you, you shall not do to another.”
Freedom! Liberation! How sweet is the sound! Sweet indeed, as long as we do not forget that all of us are created in God’s image, man and woman, and of any nation, creed and orientation.
Rabbi Joab Eichenberg-Eilon teaches biblical Hebrew and Aramaic at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, eTeacher Group Ltd. and he writes the AJT’s Yiddish Word of the Week.