Shabbat Vayikra 5777–Shabbat Torah Study–From Freedom to Slavery?

Last week we noted that the very first mitzvah given to us as “free” people would be to take control of our time. Prior to freedom, the slaves lived according to their masters’ calendar. Now that the Israelites would be free, they would have choices about their time and calendar or would they?

As we prepare for Passover, we frequently think of ways that we continue to be enslaved or enslave ourselves. We creatively think of Passover as a time when we may break free from those chains of bondage, whether it be from any manner of bad habit or, God forbid, an addiction. We look for ways that we can free ourselves.

At Limmud Michigan a few weeks ago, Rabbi Yisrael Pinson of Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit led an interesting discussion of what he called a “reverse narrative” of the Passover Story. He assembled proof texts, commentary and Midrash that suggested that the Passover Story could actually be views as having gone from freedom into slavery. The Israelites went from the freedom of an unethical and immoral society (work hard by day, play hard by night) to becoming the servants of God with the boundaries of the ethics and morality imposed by God through the mitzvoth of the Torah. Our so-called new freedom was the freedom imposed by a new master, the Master of the Universe.

As parents we know that it is because we love our children that we establish boundaries. It is not love that allows chaos and disrespect to rule. The same holds true for the love that God shows us. Our children have freedom, but there are rules. We have freedom, but there is Torah.

Instead of asking what we would like to be free from, Rabbi Pinson challenged us to reflect on what we would like to become obligated to.

So, we would not focus on what we would like to stop or do less of. We would focus on what we would like to start and do more of.

Could we become more devoted to positive and healthy behaviors and traits? What might those be? I am sure we can all think of a few. I know I can. What would yours be?

This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Joey Krakoff at 9:45 a.m. in the Shiffman Chapel. He wrote: “As we begin the Book of Vayikra/Leviticus this week we see a distinct shift in focus as the Israelites seek to establish a code of holiness in behavior. We will explore the initial steps the people took in transforming their destiny as a people seeking to be separate and set apart from both their upbringing and from all other nations.”

I do hope you will join us. Being part of a warm and friendly gathering as part of a Shabbat community engaged in achieving a better understanding of our people and faith is just one example of a positive and healthy behavior. We also finish in time for the Rabbi’s sermon!

Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat shalom and best wishes to all for a Hag pesah kasher v’sameah!,

Paul

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