“free at last” were the closing words of martin luther king, jr.’s landmark speech at the march on washington. life, however, is not like a book or a movie which can trail off with “and they lived happily ever after.” there is a reality to freedom that was first expressed in the torah.
the torah and the exodus story evidences the stark reality of freedom. despite the almighty delivering freedom onto the children of israel, there was no living happily ever after. the torah delivers the sad truth. despite freedom, some slaves wanted to return to their house of bondage. they liked the food. their newfound freedom did not instill them with faith. despite all of the miracles which freed them, they turned back to idolatry with the golden calf incident. the level of dysfunction for the children of israel was so bad that, at one point, that he wished to get rid of them and start over. this dysfunction led to the decision to let the generation of freed slaves pass in the wilderness and not enter the promised land. the decision was ultimately made after the tribes’ representatives, who went on the scouting mission to the promised land, failed in their reporting.
thus, the freedom story of the torah has a unique twist. the almighty god, in making free people, made the children of israel them subjects to himself. they would accept and enter into an eternal covenant with the master of the universe. the creator of all humanity. they would not be free to do whatever they wished to do. rather, they would be subject to rules which applied to each and every individual equally and without favor. with the sabbath, laborers, as well as employers, were entitled to their day of rest.
with freedom came the ten commandments; there would be rules for the free.
“freedom at last,” in reality, is not the end of a story. rather, it is the end of a chapter. perhaps, it marks the near beginning of a story. for the children of israel, freedom’s cost was an eternal covenant with the master of the universe. with this covenant, they were left with a book of instruction, the torah, which directed them into living moral and value based lives.
in sum, freedom, unfortunately, is not a finishing line. it is a mere moment. the next challenge is to pursue a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
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