But in his Sefer HaTodaah, Eliyahu Kitov writes that the person who never tasted the slavery in Egypt can’t taste the taste of geulah, of redemption. He states that if the Jews hadn’t been enslaved in Egypt, they would never have merited being free people.
The message sounds a lot like “we appreciate and value something more if we at one point didn’t have it (in this case our freedom), and then we acquire it.” But there’s a much more significant point here, one which provides explanation as to why we are obligated to see ourselves as having personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt.
Being free is an ultimate, but there’s one step before that. It’s that transitionary time – the leaving of slavery, the becoming a free person – that’s necessary for true freedom. When one leaves slavery, any slavery, and gains freedom, he gains both the ability to make choices for himself and also a unique awareness of his capacity – the human capacity – to choose, at every single step along the way.
Transitioning to freedom makes one keenly aware of this capacity. The individual who’s always had the ability to choose remains limited in exercising that freedom, lacking a heightened awareness of the power of choice present in all circumstances. He’s stymied when facing tougher choices, unclear ones, abandoning the freedom of choice in situations where it seems as if choice is undesirable or not possible.
The newly freed individual relishes in choice, readily admitting that not all possibilities can be chosen, but knowing that choice, in some shape or form, is always possible.
Every Pesach we gain our freedom by regaining our awareness of our freedom.
We place ourselves at the pivotal point of transitioning from slavery to freedom, reminding ourselves that the ability to choose indeed exists. In every generation we have to see ourselves as just released, newly capable of choice. Nissan reminds us of that power we have; it empowers us to maneuver the world we live in.
We are all born into predetermined circumstances: family, gender, geography, socio-economic situation. Free will, we believe, exists, but not because we can choose the best of all worlds. We can’t, usually. But we can choose something in every situation.
Bechirah, Rav Dessler writes, is about acknowledging truth. We are free to choose what that which we believe to be true. He speaks of the bechirah point, one that shifts, depending on a person’s situation, nature, propensity. As he explains it, easy decisions and extremely difficult ones don’t involve our bechirah chofshis; they’re either too easy or too hard. But the choices that are at the exact point where a person could go either way – these are where the human ability to choose (right over wrong, good over bad, truth over falsehood) forcefully comes into play.
We’re no freer from the challenges of choosing today than we were last year, then we’ll be next year, than people were 3,000 years ago, at the time of the Exodus. And yet we’re as free to choose as people always have been, and as aware people always will be.