OpinionJewish & Israeli Holidays

Passover 2024


The key to liberation is to decide that we will no longer tolerate our restraints.

Moses parting the Red Sea. Credit: Mashosh/Shutterstock.
Moses parting the Red Sea. Credit: Mashosh/Shutterstock.
Pinny Arnon. Credit: Courtesy.
Pinny Arnon
Pinny Arnon is the author of Pnei Hashem, an introduction to the depths of human experience based on the esoteric teaching of Torah.

Passover is always a time of deep introspection. The general theme of the holiday is liberation and, just as our ancestors went out from servitude and limitation in Egypt, it is incumbent on each of us to consider how we are personally enslaved—to our habits, our passions, our limiting beliefs—and how we can break free.

In addition to the personal stocktaking that we engage in every year, there are more global concerns on our minds this year. We think about the hostages who remain in literal bondage in tunnels under Gaza. We think about the unfinished war and the remaining Hamas forces that are hiding in Rafah. We think about Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, the Houthis in Yemen and the mullahs in Iran whose centrifuges continue to spin. Our prayers for liberation and salvation take on added meaning and import this year as violence and hatred against our people proliferate around the world.

In this context, a teaching of the Chiddushei HaRim from nearly 200 years ago offers some much-needed guidance.

There are four instances in the Torah at which God promises to deliver Moses and the Israelites from Egypt. The four cups of wine that we drink at the seder correspond to these four verses.

The first of these verses is found in the sixth chapter of the book of Exodus, wherein God instructs Moses to assure the people that “I will take you out from the burdens of Egypt” (Shemos 6:6). The Hebrew word for “burdens” in this verse is “סִבְלֹת/sivlot.” The Chiddushei HaRim notes that this term is from the same root as “סבלנות/savlanut,” which means tolerance, patience or endurance. With this term, the Chiddushei HaRim teaches, God is hinting to us that if we want to go out of Egypt, the initial step is to stop tolerating our imprisonment and stop waiting for someone else to let us go.

When we tolerate limitation and slavery, we fail to do everything in our power to free ourselves. We become accustomed to captivity and we settle for it. We allow our captors to define us and we come to believe them when they say we are slaves.

The first step to progress and freedom is to reject our current status, to struggle against it, to know that we can do better and we deserve better. We must never settle for where we are and we must never forget what we truly are.

This is not a prison from which we cannot escape. We, like all of God’s children, are the beloved offspring of the King of Kings. We do not belong in restraints and we can be free the moment we become aware that these chains cannot truly hold us. The only shackles that restrict us are the ones we affix to ourselves.

As the world urges and warns Israel to show restraint in its response to multiple existential attacks—in effect, to abide by strictures and standards that no other people would tolerate—we must internalize the lesson of the Chiddushei HaRim and consider the extent to which our toleration is contributing to our predicament.

At some point, if we truly want to be free, we must stop allowing ourselves to be restrained and defined by others. God is ready to take us out from under the “sivlot/burdens” of the long exile. He is simply waiting for us to be ready, to demonstrate our complete trust in Him by ceasing to cower and tolerate the constraints that are foisted on us by a morally compromised world.

The Exodus from Egypt was a prelude to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks later. The Torah was given to the world in order to introduce and codify the divine morality of our loving and just Creator. When Jews unabashedly embrace the Torah and teach its universal wisdom, there will be freedom and peace for all the nations.

It is time for all peoples to stop tolerating the lies we believe about ourselves. We are all holy, we are all worthy and we are all One. We must release ourselves from our self-limiting attitudes in order to fulfill our task of helping to liberate and elevate all of God’s creation.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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