What Does It Mean To Be Free

Rabbi Katy Allen

Every year at Passover, we read in the Haggadah,

“In every generation each individual should feel as if he or she had personally come out of Egypt. It was not only our ancestors whom the Holy One redeemed from slavery; we, too, were redeemed with them, as it is written: “[G!d] took us out from there in order to take us to the land promised on oath to our ancestors” (Deut. 6:23).

In the face of climate change, of bombings and shootings, floods and superstorms, of polluted air and poisonous water, of materialism and craving for more, what does it mean to leave Egypt? What does it mean to leave bondage? What does it mean to be redeemed? To be free?

If cancer is spreading throughout our body, we are likely to contemplate our mortality and be fully aware of the nearness of death. When we are healthy, working, raising our families, and involved in our communities, we have little time, incentive, or opportunity to consider the limits of our lives. We are too busy living to think about dying.

The specter of climate change forces upon us the recognition that not only are our lives finite, but the very planet upon which we depend is potentially mortal.

What does it mean to be free if our body is riddled with cancer? When we must say goodbye to all that we love?

What does it mean to be free when we hear of corruption deep within the institutions of our society? When racism and hate permeate our culture?

What does it mean to be free when a shooting robs us of a family member or close friend, and our sense of security? When efforts to protect our environment are undercut by those more interested in money?

What does it mean to be free….?

The answers are as myriad as the questions and the individuals upon this Earth. They dwell in the tiniest of spaces, the minutest of time spans, the deepest realms of spirit.

The answers inhabit the hugs, the moments of silence, the darkest of dark nights and the brightest of moonlit nights.

The answers lie in hearing the wind blow, in gently touching a loved one, in a smile, in a prayer, in a heartbeat.

The answers reside in the sacred beyond and the pureness within. They linger in a clump of soil, the twitter of a bird, the fall of a leaf, gently, slowly, twisting, turning.

The answers are in the heavens and in the sea, and always close at hand. They lie within us and around us and beyond us. Day and night, twilight and dawn, they are near at hand, ever present, ready to be received, ready to be intuited, by our open eyes, our attentive ears, our quiet minds, our vulnerable hearts, our sensitive souls.

The answers patiently await the ever-new awakening of hidden realms within us to all that is good and holy and sacred in this life.

Author bio: 

 Rabbi Allen currently serves as a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and writes about matters of the spirit and the world. She is one of the co-conveners of the new Boston-area Jewish Climate Action Network. She blogs atwww.mayantikvah.blogspot.com and www.nature-memories.blogspot.com.

3 Comments

Freedom For Humanity

I love this piece by Rabbi Allen. I think it speaks to the Jewish people and all of humanity. I also feel Professor Omid Safi made a very good point. I think with all the atrocities being done by "Isis" to Coptic Christians and primarily other Muslims, the concept of freedom is vital to survival of humanity. The only "Real Truth" when it comes to living in peace is that freedom must exist for every faith.

The answer is ACTIVELY

<p>The answer is ACTIVELY fighting the ills that confront us and not (in my opinion) in passively await the ever-awakening of hidden realms within us.</p>

on Freedom

<p>I appreciate Rabbi Allen's carefully crafted language finding freedom in small personal spaces as well as larger public forums. We too often can forget the daily freedoms and opportunities for blessings we are given. We are more easily able to take joy in freedoms on the micro levels before we can begin to address the myriad needs we are not allowed to ignore, we MUST attend to, on the macro level.</p>

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