Freedom is defined as 1) the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; 2) absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government; 3) the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. I have been thinking a lot about this word, freedom, these past several weeks as I have watched and read what the Ukrainian people have gone through during the Russian invasion of their country.
One of the aspects the first definition above doesn’t quite articulate as clearly as you might think is one’s ability to live their life as one chooses. This is the idea I think of when I hear the word freedom. Later this month we will be gathering together with family and friends to commemorate the time in our history when we became free following 400 years of living as slaves under the rule of Pharaohs who “knew not of Joseph.”
The idea of being “free” should not be as novel a concept as it is for some. However, sadly as we know, it is.
Each year during our Passover Seder we are instructed in our Haggadah to welcome the stranger because we were once a “stranger in a strange land.” This idea of empathizing and treating the “other” as our guest; in a way that we would have liked to have been treated, is a powerful message, especially this year. It is a chance for each of us to think about our past experiences and to figure out how we can make someone else feel comfortable and free.
Music and songs often capture the feelings and emotions many of us feel but are not always able to put into words. Think about it. The lyrics of John Lennon’s powerful song Imagine is often seen as a utopian ideal. Although never mentioning it, Lennon captures the true spirit of freedom in a way that we can all see, understand, and believe in.
During Passover this year, I would encourage all of us to think about the freedoms we have and appreciate them. While we might feel constrained in some ways, it is important to remember that there are people not only in other parts of the world but also right here in our own backyards, who are not free. Now is the time for us to not take our freedoms for granted.
On behalf of myself and the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Passover.