Are We Really Free?
Rabbi Capers Shmuel Funnye
We have made it to another Passover season, which marks the time of our redemption from slavery. We celebrate our sacred rituals of remembrance that call to mind the bitterness of slavery in ancient times and also the enslavement and freedom of our people in modern times. We will partake of the sacraments of our faith: bitter herbs, matzah and lamb, that served to remind each of us of the oppression that our forbearers suffered. We will conclude the Seder by saying, “Now we are free people.”
But, are we truly free? As I examine the violence that people of African descent perpetrate on each other and the violence perpetrated upon us by others in this society, I asked a new question—one not asked at the Seder—“What does freedom really mean?” What will it take for us to truly become a free people? I believe the process of true freedom will only come about when our community realizes that freedom is only achieved when we can declare that we are from poverty, violence, poor housing, inferior education, and economic depression. As long as our minds and spirits still bear the shackles of past oppressors then we are free in body only. Freedom is an illusion when so many of our young men are physically in jail or under the control of a system of policing that offers little justice.
I believe that we are still in Egypt, (narrowness), in many respects. We are in Egypt when we think that what is happening to others around us does not affect us. We are in Egypt (narrowness) when we allow ego (Edging God Out), to dominate our thinking about the well beings of others in our society. Although we have removed the chometz (leavening) from our homes, have we removed being puffed up (leavening) from our hearts.
As we start a new secular year with the coming of the month of Aviv/Nisan, in which we have cleansed our homes of all chometz (leavening), so too may we clean our hearts and our spirits of all chometz. Then and only then can we help our people to strive towards freedom. One must be free in mind, body and spirit, to assist others in getting to the Promised Land.