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Friday, April 8, 2016

Guest Post by Atara Snowbell on חרות Herut

Atara Snowbell, Matan
Earlier in the week I posted  Shiloh Musings: For a Good Jewish Theological Discussion, You Need Hebrew!, which I sent to my Tanach/Bible teacher Atara Snowbell. Although she hasn't taught me for a couple of years already, I still consider her as one of my teachers, and I wanted her to read that article. I feel that it relates to some of what we learned together in ספר במדבר Sefer Bamidbar, The Book of Numbers. I received her permission to post her reply on this blog:

Completely makes sense, as in אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתורה clearly is not an indication of freedom in the modern sense, but rather freedom to tie oneself into an obligatory system of one's choice.
Being an עובד ה' is true freedom, as it obligates you to the truest and most noble values.
--Of course, as an aside, I don't believe "free to do what I want" is truly freedom either, because it enslaves me to my own human desires and whims, one of the worst types of enslavement.--
The best "proof" for your post is that the Torah uses the same term to describe the enslavement to Pharaoh and to God - עבד
ויקרא פרק כה 

(נה) כִּי לִי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדִים עֲבָדַי הֵם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

Chazal picked up on this when they compared Purim to Pessach - they ask whether one should say Hallel on Pessach and conclude that we don't, because whereas on Pessach we were Pharaoh's slaves and became God's slaves, on Purim we were Ahashverosh's slaves and remained his slaves:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף יד עמוד א 

רבא אמר: בשלמא התם +תהלים קי"ג+ הללו עבדי ה' - ולא עבדי פרעה, אלא הכא - הללו עבדי ה' ולא עבדי אחשורוש? אכתי עבדי אחשורוש אנן. 

So we are redeemed from slavery but become free, only to become slaves to God. But that type of slavery is true freedom, as it is enslavement to divine values. There is not such thing as a gap, at all times we are enslaved to something: time work family our own human needs and desires. Freedom is the ability to choose to be enslaved to a set of values and morals that is right; True freedom is being enslaved to God, by choice.

I once gave a shiur that related to Eved Ivri - the Hebrew slave and the Torah's attitude toward slavery, based on this very idea. The Torah's approach is based on this very idea - no man should be enslaved to another, since they should be free to worship God alone. But that's for another discussion...

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