As the holiday of Passover nears, Jews across the world are preparing for the seder, the traditional meal in which the Passover story (the exodus from Egypt) is told and reenacted. The purpose is to remind Jews that our people were enslaved in a land not our own.
ְ”Be’chol dor va’dor chayav adam lirot et atzmo ke’ilu hu yatzah mi Mitzrayim”
“In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt,” the traditional Ashkenazi Haggadah reminds us.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained the rationale of Passover this way: “The journey from slavery to freedom is one we need to travel in every generation. So we were commanded to gather our families together every year at this time and tell the story of what it was like to be a slave and what it felt like to go free.”
For many, the central contemporary question to be explored is: What does it mean to be free?
Here is a collection of quotes on freedom that may help in your reflections.
“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Pirkei Avot 2:21
“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes.”
“The idea that it’s possible to move from slavery to freedom and from darkness to light and from despair to hope—that is the greatest Jewish story ever told.”
Rabbi Sharon Brous
“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.”
Hunter S. Thompson
“No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.”
“Freedom is won, not on the battlefield, nor in the political arena, but in human imagination and will. To defend a land, you need an army. But to defend freedom, you need education.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay.”
“Slavery discourages arts and manufactures.”
“Better to be a free bird than a captive king.”
“It’s the chains we choose that set us free.”
“Where there is no law, there is no freedom.”
“It is dangerous to take human freedom for granted, to regard it as a prerogative rather than as an obligation, as an ultimate fact rather than as an ultimate goal. It is the beginning of wisdom to be amazed at the fact of our being free.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
“I find only freedom in the realms of eccentricity.”
“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
“Freedom is taken, not given.”
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
“The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.”
Originally Published Apr 8, 2022 12:02AM EDT