Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Behar - 5774

YOVEL AND FREEDOM

The Yovel (Jubilee) is the year at the end of seven cycles of Shmita. The Torah notes that on Yom Kippur of the Yovel “You shall sound a ram's horn on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” Thus Yom Kippur is linked with freedom. This connection needs a bit of clarification.

The concept of freedom gives the human a purpose to live and overcome challenge.  At times of difficulty the dream of better times and freedom, keeps the human spirit alive.

However, a very basic question can be asked: What is freedom? the answer given by many would be, "The ability to do what I want." After such a reply, one could ask: What if an individual is addicted to something, for example smoking cigarettes. He wakes up in the morning, and needs his fix. As he is driving down to the convenient store to get his pack, he remembers that the doctor told him that his lungs cannot take any more smoke. After struggling with himself all the way to the store he cannot control himself, and purchases a pack of cigarettes. So my question is, do you consider this man free?  Can we consider a person, being controlled by something he knows is self-destructive, free? What if he is unaware of the fact that something is controlling him, and in his mind he can do whatever he wishes, is he free?

The Rabbis teach us that the only person who is free, is the person who studies Torah. On the surface, this is a difficult statement to understand. How can studying and practicing the words of Torah, make us free? What freedom does Torah offer when we feel it is so limiting, and so many things are prohibited?

A Jewish person walks by a non-Kosher restaurant, and is in the mood to have a steak. According to tradition  it is not the essence of the person who wants it, because your soul has absolutely no desire for the non-Kosher steak, rather it is your physical being. If the person gives in to temptation, and eats the steak, he is enslaved to a foreign force, and not free at all. The person who studies and practices the laws of the Torah, who knows what he should do, and what to avoid, and when a challenge arises, can overcome temptation to benefit his soul, is truly free. He is free to do what his essence wants - to follow the laws given to us by the Almighty.

With this in mind we can understand why Yom Kippur, a day of complete connection to our essence, is a day of freedom

Shabbat Shalom