|As social distance guidelines are becoming more relaxed, relief has come for many people who have been waiting to return to work and resume their regular routine. Some people are still fearful for the future and are worried about a second wave. Wherever one stands regarding policy, all agree that we all look forward to a time when we can walk the streets without masks and without fear of contracting a disease.
The Torah speaks of a time of freedom and the verse discussing it is so meaningful that it was the inspiration for the inscription on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
…proclaim freedom in the land for all who live on it.(Lev. 25:10)
A peculiar (Hebrew) word for freedom (dror) is used. What does dror mean? Rashi writes that it is the freedom to live wherever one wants, and Malbim (1809-1879) notes that the root of dror implies freedom of movement — to be able to go wherever one wants.
The verse refers to the Jubilee (i.e 50th year) year, when even those who have become servants to others due to debt, are free to return home.It is noteworthy that the freedom celebrated at that time is the freedom to return to one’s home after having been forced away for so many years. We, on the other hand, are looking for the freedom to leave our homes! We feel restless and are itching to get out; there’s a lesson to be learned from these two conflicting freedoms.
Although we may be experiencing cabin fever, the reality is that we have been in the best place we can be. Although you might be powerless to change policies and work environment at your job, you do have the ability to create and control the environment of your home. What comes on the screen, what you allow your kids (or yourself) to watch, avoiding negative conversations, and other matters that show what your values are and what you believe in. Indeed, Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch (1808-1888) explains that “dror” means “allowing persons and property to revert to where they naturally belong.” Where do we naturally belong? The place in which (hopefully) we feel most comfortable (i.e. at home). That place is found at home with family. After experiencing a tragedy or even a letdown or small setback, home is the natural place a person seeks to go because that is where (s)he will get the special emotional support and encouragement to carry on. In addition, whom does one call first when there’s good news like being accepted into one’s college of choice or winning an award? Nothing can replace the home and family in the most crucial areas of life. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially after having been sequestered in our homes for more than a year. You might desperately feel that you want to get back to normal but at the same time you should realize that your home is your natural center of life. That’s what’s normal.
The verse that made its way to the Liberty Bell talks about a collective freedom– “proclaim freedom in the land for all who live on it.” As individuals, we enjoy our personal freedoms but as members of a larger community or country, we can’t experience total freedom unless everyone (“all who live in it”) is free. Many of us have been vaccinated and are slowly being given the green light to go out and about, but until everyone is safe, including the elderly and most vulnerable, we can’t really celebrate freedom.
We look forward to the day when the virus is completely contained and everyone can return to normal life; then, we will fully celebrate our freedom of movement. But in the meantime, we can learn to appreciate the freedom of being able to live in our own homes, making sure they are distinctly Jewish homes loyal to the values and way of life of those who came before us. We are always free to do that and shouldn’t ever toss it aside or shirk our responsibility to be a strong link in the Jewish chain. Good Shabbos