Freedom is the ability to rejoice in the fact that despite our inner battles we have the vision and courage to continue to fight the battle for the Truth.
The Pesach Haggadah has a perspective in addressing this, a spiritual path blazed out for us. The arbah leshonos shel Geulah were composed by Hashem while we were bound in slavery. Within it G-d refers to four levels, four concepts of freedom. Each level is built on the previous level as with a tree; first we have the roots, then the trunk, branches and finally the fruit.
These four leshonos correspond with the four cups of wine we drink during the Seder. Each one toasts one of the languages of redemption and freedom.
Though it may sound redundant, these are actually four different languages of freedom. Let us examine them more closely.
1) Ve’hotzaysee – G-d promises that a time will come when we will be relieved of the burden of work. If all our energy is expended for sheer survival, it is as if we are still enslaved.
When Adam sinned, G-d deemed he must now work for his livelihood, pursue prey, prepare his food. Adam despaired. Now that he needed to provide his own sustenance, there would be less time for him to reach his potential. To live in order to provide had now become his major preoccupation. Today we are still enslaved by our schedules. We are so involved in our rigmarole that even were freedom offered us we would not know how to deal with it. When Moshe told the people they were to become free, they were unable to hear it; their tolerance level was shortened and they could not absorb the idea of freedom.
Spiritual and G-dly freedom means to have the time to breathe and to reflect; time to have a happy awareness of the self.
Even with less involvement in the rat race we are still not free. Still it is a prerequisite towards freedom, the roots of which can grow, eventually producing the fruit that man was meant to cultivate.
There is the story of a wagon driver, who carries his packages–his onus–on his back. A passenger asks him why he does this. The driver responds, “I want to make it easier for you by carrying the weight on my back.” The rider hears the absurdity and thinks: “Are not the packages and the riders and the wagon being carried anyway?!” Without that attitude we lose freedom. By trusting in Hashem we release ourselves of an onus, and then we can care for– carry– others as well, helping to unburden them.
So, freedom is learning to unburden ourselves. In the dedication and pursuit of freedom we can look to help any human to have dignity. A moral and spiritual elevation is predicated on this unburdening.
2) Ve’hitzalti estchem me’avodosaichem – And I will save you from the servitude. Man has difficulty making choices. We often determine our own system of free will and attempt to exercise it. Our choices tend to be self-serving, our priorities warped. If you supply someone with every luxury and give him everything, you are smothering his basic freedom. He does not have himself. He is not formed through choices he has made himself. He has got it all, perhaps, but robbed of his own self-development.
We need to keep alive the knowledge of God, to really know that we can have a relationship with Him. Chassidus says that if we are looking at the world correctly we cannot help but realize that we are in God’s constant presence. Once we experience the world in this way we enjoy a certain special freedom. Otherwise life is about avoiding (metaphoric) earthquakes, entirely vulnerable to nature’s whims.
When Moshe approaches Pharaoh he pleads for freedom for his people. Besides Shelach et ami, it says B’ni bechori Yisroel. Hashem proclaims that He has a personal, father/son, relationship with Israel. We can be close to God.
Jewish history is replete with bondage and slavery. So much so, that we might wonder why we even celebrate freedom. Are we really free? How can we lie back at the Seder and rejoice? Our lives are distinguished as we live with God’s presence, our choices made from a place of priority. This level of freedom can never be taken from us.