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The Question of Freedom

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson


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What is the healthiest thing you can do for your child to help arm him or her with tools to prevent many of today’s social maladies? As we witness the deep void in children’s lives today, there is a profound lesson that can be gleaned from a 3000 year old tradition.

In homes across the world, young children begin the Passover Seder by asking the Four Questions. Looking beneath the surface of this custom reveals a powerful universal message regarding freedom for both our children and ourselves. It illuminates an internal deeper dimension of the human need to explore and question, which lies at the very heart of freedom.

Throughout history the silencing of the masses has been a powerful tool employed by monarchs and dictators whose tyrannical rule was threatened by individual expression. In contrast, freedom in America today is essentially based on the right to challenge and to question.

Every unhealthy and dysfunctional experience is always shrouded in silence. Not allowing man to ask, to challenge and to probe is perhaps the worst crime of all. It invalidates the individual, demoralizes the psyche and enslaves the free spirit in a superimposed box of distortions.

Religion is perhaps the greatest victim of this malady. Wherever I travel, I meet countless people who have been hurt by “authorities” who have dogmatically imposed religious teachings upon them. Frequently I hear: “I was never allowed to ask questions;” “Do what you’re told or God will get even with you.” The underlying implication is: “Listen, behave, fall in line – conform!”

Asking questions is an essential human quality. Observe an infant beginning to crawl and exploring her little world, or watch a child dismantle his toys. Curiosity is an inherent part of our nature. We naturally dissect our universe; we take things apart; we explore the universe and try to understand what makes it work. The root of all knowledge is the curiosity to know what is beneath, to search for the deeper purpose of existence. Nothing is more freeing than the human need to challenge the status quo and believe that through our exploration things can become better.

Think of the last time you were silenced by a parent, an authority or a spouse. Now think of the last time someone listened to you. Sincerely listened - asking how you are, what are your concerns, what are your questions. Is there a more empowering experience than that simple gesture of allowing you to be you – the freedom to express yourself, to allow your true self to emerge? To be uniquely you.


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Mitzvot » Education
Holidays » Passover » Seder » The Haggadah

A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.