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Freedom=Vacation or Holiday?

Friday, 15 April, 2016 - 5:47 pm

Ask a Hebrew speaker how to translate free or freedom and you will get one of two answers – either Chofesh (Chofshi) or Cherut. If we look at the root of these two terms we will quickly identify how diametrically different they are. Chofesh implies free of anything that defines or structures (it is the term used for vacation). Indeed the letters of that Hebrew word are related to Chapes, Hebrew for search, meaning searching for meaning or identity. Cherut, on the other hand, implies a liberation that is filled with meaning and substance. The same Hebrew letters spell Charut, Hebrew for engraved, meaning that one’s identity is deeply instilled as letters are engraved upon stone.

Pesach is referred to as Zman Cheruteinu – season of our freedom (liberation). This freedom that we were given at the time of the Exodus was not an empty freedom from structure or definition, but rather a freedom in which the engraved identity of our relationship with Hashem was revealed.

In the English language we find a similar phenomenon. There are two words we can use for “time off,” vacation and holiday. Vacation comes from the word vacate (vacare in Latin), meaning unoccupied or empty of obligations. Holiday implies holy day, meaning a day filled with holiness and meaning.

This Pesach, as we explore our freedom, let us be certain that the freedom we pursue is Cherut rather than Chofesh and a holiday rather than vacation! It is a time to deepen and strengthen our commitment to Hashem and our Jewish identity by increasing our Torah study and Mitzvah performance. As we take upon ourselves additional Mitzvot that serve to structure our lives, rather than feeling inhibited we will feel liberated. As we commit to going to Shul one extra time a week, rather than feeling over-scheduled we will feel freer. As we absorb new areas of Torah study that serve to inform our mindset and lifestyle, rather than feeling intellectually limited we will feel expanded.

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Wishing you a very meaningful and freedom seeking, yet happy and also Kosher Pesach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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