FREE AT LAST
Rabbi Daniel Estreicher
Examining the Jewish calendar gives rise to the following query: Why is the week-long holiday of Sukkot followed by Shemini Atzeret, a short one-day continuance, whereas the week-long holiday of Passover is not followed by any such brief closing festival?
Examining the Jewish calendar gives rise to the following query: Why is the week-long holiday of Sukkot followed by Shemini Atzeret, a short one-day continuance, whereas the week-long holiday of Passover is not followed by any such brief closing festival? The answer is that the upcoming holiday of Shavuot is really the conclusion of Passover.
True, we were freed from slavery on Passover, but that was only a physical freedom. Being free to do whatever we want to do - without any restraints - is not true freedom, for we would remain slaves to our desires. Only when we accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai on Shavuot and willingly bound ourselves to Hashem and His way of life did we truly become free. Receiving the Torah imbued our lives with direction.
This is what the Talmud means with the famous dictum: "Ain ben chorin eleh me sh'oseik b'talmud Torah - A person is not free unless he is involved in the study of Torah." The Torah is our guide to life, and it tells us what is right and wrong. It frees us from the shackles of the evil inclination so that we can now accomplish great things and achieve eternity.
It may not seem easy to accept the Torah, and we may wonder how keeping kosher and Shabbat and all the moral restrictions are in fact "freedom". But if we apply ourselves and delve deeply into understanding the meaning that all of the laws give to our lives and how they perfect us in all aspects of our existence, then we will certainly come to the conclusion that we are free. We will then understand that those who lack direction and feel that they have to follow the crowd are really the true slaves.
Rabbi Daniel Estreicher has been teaching at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for more than twenty years.
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